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‘BASIC POLITICAL FREEDOMS’

Ambassador Robert Ford this week excoriated the Syrian government for its brutal assault on peaceful protests in his strongest words since he became the U.S. envoy in Damascus in January.

Mr. Ford, once criticized in Washington for a timid approach, dismantled every justification made by Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad, whose regime has denounced the protesters as terrorists and accused the United States of inciting violence.

“Peaceful protesters are not ‘terrorists,’ and after all the evidence accumulated over the past six months, no one except the Syrian government and its supporters believes that the peaceful protesters here are,” Mr. Ford wrote in a message on the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page.

He said the United States has no role in the protests, except to give public encouragement to the anti-government demonstrators.

Washington “is not providing any assistance to any armed group in Syria,” he said. “If the Syrian government has evidence, let’s see it.”

Mr. Ford noted that the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey have blamed Mr. Assad for the violence that has claimed more than 2,200 lives in the past six months.

He also acknowledged that some Syrian policemen have been killed in the protests.

“But the number of security service members killed is far, far lower than the number of unarmed civilians killed,” Mr. Ford wrote.

“No one in the international community accepts the justification from the Syrian government that those security service members’ deaths justify the daily killings, beatings, extrajudicial detentions, torture and harassment of unarmed civilian protesters.”

Mr. Ford also expressed doubts that “the Syrian leadership desires or is capable of the deep, genuine and credible reforms that the Syrian people demand.”

He reminded Mr. Assad that Syria is a signatory to the U.N. Human Rights Charter and has legal obligations to guarantee freedom of speech and peaceful protests.

“This isn’t about Western military intervention. This isn’t about oil (many governments have banned its import). This isn’t about Israel or the West wanting to dominate the Arab world (an old, discredited government line). This is about basic political freedoms,” he said.

“And the United States wholly supports Syrians’ rights to exercise those freedoms.”

Mr. Ford has angered Mr. Assad by traveling outside the capital, Damascus, to visit protesters in several flash point cities. The Syrian government responded by slapping travel restrictions on Mr. Ford and other foreign ambassadors.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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