- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Pro-government thugs in Syria attacked U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford in Damascus last week, and Syrian television recorded the assault in a news clip widely circulated over the Internet.

The television broadcast shows a small group of angry Syrians following Mr. Ford and his security detail. The Syrians shouted slogans in support of President Bashar Assad, the Syrian autocrat who has unleashed armed troops to kill anti-government protesters throughout the Middle Eastern nation.

One man, wearing a white T-shirt and blue baseball cap, attempted to throw a poster with Mr. Assad’s image over Mr. Ford, as his security team pushed the ambassador into a white sport utility vehicle and sped away.

Another pro-government demonstrator held a handwritten sign that read: “We are all one. Get off our back.”

Mr. Ford repeatedly has angered the Syrian president by traveling to cities outside the capital to talk with anti-government demonstrators, who are demanding Mr. Assad resign.

On the day of the confrontation with the pro-Assad mob, Mr. Ford was preparing to visit the southern Syrian city of Jassem, the scene of several anti-government protests.

After returning to Damascus, he informed the Syrian Foreign Ministry of his visit, prompting a formal complaint to the State Department. Mr. Assad earlier imposed travel restrictions on foreign diplomats, after Mr. Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chavellier visited the flash-point city of Hama in July.

The State Department retaliated by requiring Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha to seek approval for any travel outside the Washington area.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland last week explained that Mr. Ford traveled to Jassem without Syrian government permission because the Foreign Ministry repeatedly had denied his travel requests to leave the capital.

“The fact that he had been denied again and again and again permission to travel … that he made the decision to go,” she told reporters.

The United Nations says that Syrian forces have killed more than 2,000 unarmed protesters since the uprising against Mr. Assad erupted in March.

The YouTube video of the attack on Mr. Ford is posted at https://bit.ly/p8rnCz.


The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee denounced JPMorgan Chase bank for violating U.S. sanctions by processing thousands of “shameful” transactions with “cruel dictatorships.”

“These regimes kill their own people, and some of them sponsor violent extremism and pursue nuclear-, unconventional- and ballistic-missile capabilities,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, after the bank agreed to pay $88.3 million for violating sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Liberia.

The Florida Republican applauded the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for pursuing the charges against one of America’s oldest financial institutions.

JPMorgan Chase last week accepted the penalty after the Treasury Department accused it of “apparent violations” of sanctions that forbid financial transactions with the four countries.

The Treasury Department said JPMorgan Chase processed more than 1,700 transactions totaling $178.5 million to Cuba and made a $2.9 million loan to Iran. The deals were made between Dec. 15, 2005, and March 1, 2011, the department said.

The bank in a statement said the violations were unintentional, “rare” and “isolated from one another.”

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen called on the State Department “to follow Treasury’s example and fully implement U.S. laws targeting these thugs.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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