The Assad regime is still killing civilians in Syria — the last few days have been particularly bloody — and Italy has withdrawn its ambassador in protest. The Italians are urging other European countries to follow suit; while none have, yet, the EU is imposing new sanctions on the regime. (Unfortunately, these don’t yet include sanctions on the Syrian oil industry, which could have real bite — Syria produces a type of heavy crude oil that relatively few refineries can handle, and most of those refineries are in Europe. US sanctions on companies that deal with Syria, which Senators Kirk, Lieberman, and Gillibrand are proposing, might nudge Europe in the right direction on this front.)
The US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, is in Washington this week, briefing the President and testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the horrifying behavior of the regime in Damascus. How about keeping him here? ABC News reported yesterday: “Officials say the United States is preparing further punitive measures against the Syrian government, though one official ruled out closing the U.S. embassy in Damascus or kicking out the Syrian ambassador to Washington.”
Why on Earth would you rule this out? With Syria threatening to restrict Ford’s movement, it’s likely that he’ll be unable to do much good. Maybe the move by Rome (which came after ABC talked to that anonymous official) will convince the Obama administration to rethink its position, particularly if other countries follow suit. Really, though, Washington should be leading on this, not following.
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