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Robert Ford attacked by thugs in Syria — again

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 ...

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

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."

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.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

Tag: Syria

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