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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2008

PROTEST IN SYRIA

The U.S. Embassy in Syria shut down Thursday as riot police surrounded the diplomatic mission to guard it from thousands of demonstrators protesting a U.S. military raid against suspected terrorists inside Syrian territory.

However, after a few hours shouting angry slogans and punching clenched fists into the air, the crowd of students and workers left peacefully for their classes or their jobs, according to reports from the capital, Damascus.

The embassy was never directly in jeopardy because the demonstrators gathered at Youssef al-Azmi square, about a mile away from the U.S. compound. However, Maura Connelly, the charge d'affaires at the embassy, expected protests and took no chances.

In a terse statement posted on its Web site Wednesday, the embassy said, "Due to increased security concerns, the U.S. Embassy will be closed on Thursday, October 30, 2008."

The embassy was the target of a terrorist attack in 2006, when four men detonated a car bomb near the walls of the mission. Syrian guards killed the attackers in a gunbattle, in which one of the guards also died.

The demonstrators Thursday were protesting Sunday's U.S. Special Forces assault on suspected terrorists five miles inside the Syrian border with Iraq. The helicopter raid killed Badran Turki al-Mazidih, whom the United States identified as a top al Qaeda operative in charge of a network that smuggled terrorists into Iraq.

In Washington this week, Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha denounced the raid as a "criminal, terrorist attack," and claimed U.S. troops killed eight civilians unconnected to al Qaeda.

The United States withdrew Ambassador Margaret Scobey from Syria in 2005 to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose death has been linked to Syrian agents.

SURGE FOR KURDS

A crowded reception Wednesday night in Washington for Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, demonstrated that the one aspect of U.S. intervention in Iraq still retaining broad bipartisan support is Iraq's Kurdish north, according to our correspondent, Barbara Slavin, assistant managing editor for world and national security news at The Washington Times.

Democrats such as Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress rubbed shoulders with current and former Bush administration officials, including U.S. representative to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and envoy to Iraqi opposition groups before the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Also toasting the Kurds at the Fairmont Hotel were Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and an architect of the Iraq war, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was forced to step down in the Valerie Plame affair, and Richard Perle, once head of a defense department advisory board and another staunch supporter of the Iraq invasion.

While in Washington, Mr. Barzani met with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the future status of U.S. troops in Iraq, the disputed city of Kirkuk and violence against Iraqi Christians, advisers said.

Aides passed out a 200-page glossy publication entitled "The Kurdistan Region: Invest in the Future" to guests as they left.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.