- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

GET OUT OF SYRIA

The Syrian government Tuesday ordered all U.S. diplomats to leave the country, although the U.S. Embassy was closed in February and there was no one to expel.

The Foreign Ministry included the United States in a massive explusion that affected 11 diplomatic missions and dozens of foreign envoys. The ministry said the action was retaliation against the United States and 10 other nations that kicked out Syrian diplomats a week ago.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi announced the “reciprocal measure” but also appealed for the restoration of diplomatic relations.

“We hope [those countries] that initiated the move will reconsider … and let back the normal relations between the two parties again,” he said in a statement to Syrian newspapers.

The expulsion of the diplomats followed the massacre of more than 100 people, including women and children, in the Houla region of Syria on May 25 and 26, as the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad intensified. More than 13,500 people have died in the conflict.

The Foreign Ministry formally declared seven foreign ambassadors and other diplomats “persona non grata,” essentially “unwelcomed persons.”

The expelled ambassadors are Julio Albi of Spain, Achille Amerio of Italy, Martin Auschbachar of Switzerland, Eric Chevallier of France, Simon Collis of Britain and Omer Onhon of Turkey.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford left Syria before the State Department announced the closing of the embassy Feb. 6.

The Polish Embassy in Damascus is representing U.S. interests and maintaining U.S. government property.

UPDATE ON MUSTAPHA

When Imad Moustapha last appeared on the Washington diplomatic scene, the Syrian ambassador was skulking out of town in December on the heels of a spy scandal.

A Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Rai, reported that Mr. Moustapha had been gathering intelligence on Syrians in the United States who were critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Mr. Moustapha, who had been ambassador here since 2004, is now Syria’s ambassador to China.

On his blog Monday, he said he is “reinvigorated” by the challenge of learning Mandarin and understanding Chinese culture.

He also described himself as “intensely un-American.”

HEADS UP!

The U.S. ambassador to France took a leap of faith this week as he jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet during high winds to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II.

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin, a former CEO of the Jim Henson Co., of Muppets fame, soared in a tandem jump with a member of the elite U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team over the Normandy beaches, where the Allied assault on the Nazis began on June 6, 1944.

“Proud to be the first U.S. ambassador to jump out of an airplane in honor of our troops,” Mr. Rivkin said in a Twitter message after landing safely. “Thinking of those who gave their lives … 68 years ago.”

More than 25,000 people watched the jump that included 150 U.S., French and German paratroopers.

France has been our ally from the start, and the evidence is here in this field,” Mr. Rivkin told a French television station after the jump.

PAKISTAN STILL ANGRY

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry was enraged Tuesday after three U.S. drone strikes in three days against terrorist targets in the country’s border region with Afghanistan.

The ministry summoned Richard Hoagland, the senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy, for a finger-wagging complaint.

“He was informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” the ministry said.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.