- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2012


U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford, who returned to Syria last month, is already resuming the types of verbal assaults against President Bashar Assad and his violent regime that brought death threats and forced a recall to Washington.

“The killing at the hands of Syria security forces of hundreds of civilians during the past weeks is appalling. … Each of these killings is a tragedy and a crime,” Mr. Ford said Tuesday on his Facebook page.

The United Nations estimates that Syrian authorities have killed more than 5,000 protesters since demonstrations against the government erupted in March. Syrian opposition sources say the regime has killed nearly 400 civilians since Dec. 21, only two days after Mr. Assad agreed to an Arab League plan to stop the crackdown on protesters and open talks with the opposition.

Mr. Ford also expressed shock over seeing long lines of Syrian women waiting to get fuel from an oil tanker on “one cold, dark night.” He blamed the government for creating the fuel shortage because international sanctions against Syria do not include a ban on the sale of refined oil.

“I have never seen this in an Arab country before - women having to stand in a long line in the night,” said Mr. Ford, a career diplomat who has served in Algeria, Egypt and Iraq.

“The government and [regime loyalists] will try to blame the West for the shortages, but the sanctions do not stop sales of refined energy products to Syria,” he added.

Last year, Mr. Ford angered the regime by denouncing the violence and traveling outside the capital, Damascus, to visit protesters across Syria.

The State Department recalled him in October after he received death threats.

Syria responded by recalling Ambassador Imad Moustapha from Washington. Mr. Assad has not replaced his ambassador to the United States, but Mr. Moustapha’s message to Syrian-Americans remains on the website of the Syrian Embassy, where Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour is in charge.


Two U.S. groups monitoring the Egyptian elections are complaining that the military government is spreading false information about them, after authorities raided their offices last week.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute said this week that they have long had the proper authorization to operate in Egypt and that the ruling military council has been aware of their activities since the army took over after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak last year.

“There continues to be public misrepresentation regarding the nature of the [IRI] activities in Egypt,” the organization said this week. “IRI respects the sovereignty and laws or Egypt and seeks to operate in full accordance with Egyptian law.”

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) also complained about “numerous false and misleading allegations” against the group since the raid Thursday.

“NDI has maintained open, transparent and constructive relationships with the government of Egypt, sharing with the authorities all major program activities conducted by the Institute,” it said.

Both Washington-based groups provide advice to foreign political activists, offering tips on preparations for elections and organization of political parties. Neither group provides funds to political parties.

The IRI, chaired by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is allied with the Republican Party, and the NDI, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, is aligned with the Democratic Party.

Egyptian authorities have defended the raid on the groups’ offices along with another Washington-based group, Freedom House, and several Egyptian civil rights organizations.

On Sunday, Fayza Aboul Naga, minister of planning and international cooperation, and Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid called the raids part of an investigation into illegal foreign funding of political groups.

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

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