U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford got into his most serious scrape yet today when an embassy delegation was attacked by a violent mob in Damascus.
"A crowd of demonstrators tried to assault Ambassador Ford and embassy colleagues today as they went about doing the normal work of any embassy. In this instance, they went to a meeting with a well-known Syrian political figure," a State Department official confirmed to The Cable.
"The mob was violent; it tried, unsuccessfully, to attack embassy personnel while they were inside several embassy vehicles, and, while unsuccessful, it did seriously damage the vehicles."
The official said that Syrian security officers finally provided assistance by securing a path for the U.S. delegation back to the embassy. Ford and embassy staff are now safely back at the U.S. embassy.
BBC News reported that Ford was visiting veteran politician Hassan Abdul Azim. The AP reported that the mob of over 100 thugs pelted Ford with eggs and tomatoes upon his arrival at Azim's office, and that Ford and the staff were trapped inside for over three hours before Syrian security forces finally escorted them to safety.
We're told that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have a statement on the incident later today.
This is Ford's third run-in with violence in recent weeks. The Cable first reported that Ford was assaulted while standing outside a sit-in by lawyers at the Syrian Bar Association on Aug. 23, when a man tried to wrap a giant poster of President Bashar al-Assad around him. Then on Sept. 11, Syrian forces attacked a funeral of activist Giyath Matar shortly after Ford and seven other ambassadors had left.
Ford's determined effort to publicly show support for protesters is clearly angering the Assad regime, but it is also convincing his detractors in Washington that he should be confirmed as the permanent ambassador in Syria. Until now, he has been serving under a recess appointment.
"When an ambassador makes a statement in a country that's critical of that country's government, when that government visits an opposition or a site where a protest is taking place, the statement is much more powerful -- and the impact and the attention it gets is much more powerful if it's an ambassador rather than a low-level diplomat," Ford told The Cable in an interview last week.
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