Almost two months ago, a video circulated online showing the U.S. ambassador to Syria getting a boisterous welcome from demonstrators when he visited the restive city of Hama.
A new video making the digital rounds captures the ambassador, Robert Ford, getting a much colder – and somewhat frightening – reception in the Syrian capital.
The video, spotted by Foreign Policy’s blog The Cable, shows Ford being chased down by loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, then being quickly hurried into a vehicle by his security team. One of the Syrian hecklers tries to drape an Assad banner around the ambassador. (The frenzy begins at about 2 minutes, 10 seconds into the footage.) As The Cable points out, the video has been repackaged into a segment on Syrian TV in which the ambassador is accused, falsely, of trying to lead an anti-Assad protest.
The incident happened a few days before Ford defied the Syrian government last week by making an unannounced trip to Jassem. He has not left Damascus since then, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
U.S. officials are pressing for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria as a result of the Assad government’s crackdown on demonstrators. Russia and China have resisted such measures.
“We are ... intensifying our work in New York with some of our allies and partners on a new sanctions resolution,” Nuland said. “That’s going to be a matter of diplomatic priority over the coming days and weeks.”