That is what an embassy is — national soil. And an attack on it, as we learned in the years leading up to 9-11, is violation of national sovereignty that we should not ignore. But this administration is doing its best to downplay an inexcusable attack on a U.S. embassy from a regime that it should long ago have called to step down.
A senior State Department official confirmed the weekend attacks on our embassy in Damascus, “The protest lasted 31 hours across Friday and Saturday with protesters calling for the ambassador to leave. Protesters eventually threw tomatoes, eggs, and later glass and rocks at the Embassy. Two Embassy employees were struck by food.” What did we do? We registered a complaint. No, I am serious. The official recounted, “Ambassador Ford registered U.S. displeasure with these events in an already scheduled July 10 meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister [Walid al-] Muallim. The meeting was requested by the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and had been scheduled since last Thursday. . . . In the same meeting, Ambassador Ford made clear that Syrian government incitement of Syrians against the United States, including through aggressive protesters in front of the Embassy, must stop, and the Syrian government must not use his visit to Hama — meant only to gather information and support freedom of expression — as propaganda.”
At the State Department briefing spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gamely tried to gussy up the administration’s reaction. The Associated Press reported:
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland demanded that Syria uphold international treaty obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions. She said the Syrian government failed to provide adequate protection for the facilities.
“We consider that the Syrian government has not lived up to its obligations ... to protect diplomatic facilities, and it is absolutely outrageous,” she told reporters.
She said the mob had not breached the chancery building but had gotten onto its roof, spray painted graffiti and broken windows and some security cameras. In addition, she said protesters lobbed fruits and vegetables at the compound.
Nuland said Syrian security forces who are supposed to guard the mission were slow to respond to the attack by supporters of President Bashar Assad, which she said was incited by a television station that is heavily influenced by Syrian authorities.
But alas outrage is not a policy. Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, tells me, “The Obama administration just doesn’t seem to get it. The fall of Assad would be a blow to Tehran and its terrorist proxies. We should be doing everything in our power to hasten Assad’s departure. The first step is cutting diplomatic ties. Otherwise, these Syrian antics will continue.”
And, remember that this comes in the wake of reports that the Syrian ambassador is spying on and facilitating retaliation against pro-democracy advocates. Mike Singh of the Washington Institute comments to me that this is “outrageous stuff.” He adds that “if this doesn’t trigger the expulsion of their ambassador or even restrictions on his movements, it will be scandalous.” The State Department did not respond to my request for an update on its findings and actions (if any) against the ambassador.
Now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has decided that Assad has “lost legitimacy.” That happened long ago. Doing nothing but complaining about Assad’s criminality, however, will make no impact on the Assad regime and its senior partner in Tehran.