U.S. may close embassy in Syria
A rally in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Deir Zor, Syria
January 20th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

U.S. may close embassy in Syria

By Elise Labott

The United States is considering closing its embassy in Damascus, Syria because of security concerns, two senior U.S. officials tell CNN.

The embassy has only a "handful" of staff working with Ambassador Robert Ford.  Most of the staff were evacuated earlier in the year and the diplomatic team was further reduced last week.

"We have had increasing concerns of the safety of our personnel, one senior State Department official said. "We have not made any decisions but it is under serious consideration."

The U.S. has asked the Syrian government for increased security around the embassy.  In October, the U.S. pulled Ford after he was attacked by what a U.S. official described as an "armed mob" in Damascus.  He returned in December.

"Our decisions will be based on that" another senior official said. "It is not clear they will do what we need."

Closing the embassy would effectively severe any remaining diplomatic relations with Syria. In addition, there is concern that the removal of Ambassador Ford would hamper a key American outreach to Syrian opposition.

The State Department issued a statement late Friday saying no decision has been made but the U.S. has "serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Damascus, including the recent spate of car bombs, and about the safety and security of embassy personnel."

"We have requested that the government of Syria take additional security measures to protect our embassy, and the Syrian government is considering that request. We have also advised the Syrian government that unless concrete steps are taken in the coming days we may have no choice but to close the mission," the statement said.

A third senior State Department official insists that no final decision has been made.

"This is not the end of the story," the official said, adding that Ambassador Ford "will stay if we are able to have the right type of physical steps that would give us security at the embassy."

The official said while the Syrian government is not welcoming Ambassador Ford for regular discussions about the violence, the Syrian government has been willing to talk to him about various options to protect the embassy.

"We have taken to them some very real security concerns we have about the facility," the official said.

"They have taken our concerns seriously and are engaged," the official said. "They have taken some steps, but at this point they are not sufficient to address what we see is a very real threat against the embassy buildings."

Growing American concerns about the security of the embassy further heightened after suicide attackers exploded two car bombs outside Syrian security facilities last month, which this official said "bear all the hallmarks of al Qaeda."

The official stressed the U.S. has no information about who was involved in the attacks, although Syria has blamed al-Qaeda.

Syrian authorities have restricted traffic around government facilities and added barriers, steps the official said the U.S. and other embassies with similar concerns asked the regime to take.

The official noted that the American embassy in Damascus is not set back very far from the road. The embassy survived a bomb attack in 2006 because the device did not detonate.

It also comes as the U.S. is asking the Syrian government for information regarding an American man who is reported to have been arrested in Aleppo.  Abdelkadar Chaar, 22, was born in Syracuse, New York, moved to Aleppo with his parents when he was a boy and is currently a medical student at Aleppo University, his uncle Sam Chaar told CNN.   The medical student was arrested early in the morning on January 8; his family has not been told why, the elder Chaar said.

The U.S. requested confirmation of the arrest and consular access from the Syrians, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.

Syria smoldered Friday as anti-government demonstrators poured into the streets and the Arab League mulled an extension of its monitoring mission.  Protesters focused their attention on political prisoners and demanded the release of detainees. At least 10 people were slain in clashes Friday, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group.

soundoff (96 Responses)
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    April 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  4. DSBsky

    It's about F'n time!.. Now only 149 more we need to close in countries around te world. "Most of which most Americans don't even know exist but are paying for and cost billions" Just another way the American governments thinks the less we know, the better. Stealing our money as if it's theirs, before we even make it. Close the hell out them.. Bring our troops home, and FIX OUR COUNTRY FOR ONCE!!!!!

    January 23, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply

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    January 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  6. Kudu

    And we will miss WHAT by closing the embassy?

    January 21, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply
  7. G Edwards

    Why doesn't Pres Obama use the military to protect civilians (including US civilians and diplomats), like he did in Libya?

    January 21, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  8. Sarai

    This just in reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by reporter Chemi Shalev
    Uproar after Jewish American Andrew Adler of the Atlanta Jewish Times.....suggests Israel give Mossad the go ahead to assassinate our U.S. President in order to perserve Israel's existence. Adler goes on to suggest that its not unfathomable to think such talk is/has gone on in Israeli's gov't circles.
    Why is this not being reported in the U.S. media.....and why hasn't this Adler been arrested for making direct threats to our President?

    January 21, 2012 at 6:39 am | Reply
  9. JT

    Seriously, this hasn't been done already?

    January 21, 2012 at 6:23 am | Reply
  10. student

    RON PAUL HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR DECADES and Now you listen?? remember who is running as a president FOR THE PEOPLE

    January 21, 2012 at 6:22 am | Reply
  11. William

    So we are closing it for security concerns but not because the Dictator uses tanks to blow citizens of his country to pieces?
    If Dems went after world thugs as viciously as they go after those tea party folks, then maybe dictators the world over wont be thumbing their noses at us.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:12 am | Reply
    • Jt_flyer

      If the biggest presidential idiot in American history – GW Bush – hadn't declared war on the entire world we wouldn't be in this mess. To evenge his father's humiliation. That's why the American people drop kicked GW Bush jr. .. Rick Perry back to Texas.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:50 am | Reply
    • G Edwards

      Pres Bush didn't declare war on anyone. Unlike Pres Obama, he knew and respected the fact that only Congress could give him the permission to enter into hostilities. So after Congress, including then-Sen Clinton and Biden, said he could use the military for that purpose, he did so.

      Those two are not in the Obama Administration, and Pres Obama unilaterally declared war on a country – Libya. So he has exerience in doing it. Why not do the same thing in Syria? Or Egypt? Or Bahrain? Or...?

      January 21, 2012 at 7:04 am | Reply
      • G Edwards

        Those two are NOW in the....

        Sorry for any confusion.

        January 21, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  12. dirt

    word to the wise...aim for the towel (-)

    January 21, 2012 at 5:33 am | Reply
  13. Alex

    Syria is a terrorist country .

    January 21, 2012 at 5:17 am | Reply
    • Mohammad

      No, But Israel is.

      January 21, 2012 at 5:38 am | Reply
      • William

        Oh yes, the Jews are causing the riots, Jews are causing people to be shot down in the streets, the Jews are behind all the Islamic terrorism in the world. It must be the Jews behind Middle Easter dictators who bleat on about their warm Islamic faith. Islam has killed more Muslims, and infidels, than the Jews ever thought of doing. I dont see Jew throwing acid in young girls faces or blowing up women and children in their own country.

        January 21, 2012 at 6:16 am |
      • The War Criminal General Sherman

        No, William – Israel just gets us to do their dirty work. Soon we will be attacking Iran with force, while simultaneously sucking Israeli cock and taking it up the ass, as they sit by and watch.

        January 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  14. Isaac

    That means the next move will be bombs dropping

    January 21, 2012 at 4:59 am | Reply
    • Jeremy

      I say close any embassy in all militant countrys and let them sort it out. we need to focus on our own problems.

      January 21, 2012 at 5:17 am | Reply
  15. Jonah Ex

    Need to pull the Embassy personnel from Iraq next. Maliki is building his dictatorship with the help of his military and Iran. Why is the US arming Maliki's Army????

    January 21, 2012 at 2:58 am | Reply
    • William

      You are right and Iraq will be in the lap of Iran very soon.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:17 am | Reply
  16. theDude

    What is Syria? Do they have In&Out Burger there? If not, who cares.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:19 am | Reply
    • Fredsayz

      Syria is the roughly the size of Oklahoma, only without Garth Brooks.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:29 am | Reply
    • nihilist

      So you're saying that Syria is like a country, only smaller? Leave Garth Brooks out of this!

      January 21, 2012 at 2:35 am | Reply
    • Ace

      Too many words in this article and not enough pictures of movie stars.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:36 am | Reply
    • The Other Lebowski

      Like, that's your opinion, man.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:38 am | Reply
    • Isaac

      Shut the eff up Donnie

      January 21, 2012 at 4:59 am | Reply
      • El Duderino

        MARK IT ZERO

        January 21, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  17. Tylenol666

    "May"???? is not "April" Shut it down we dont need to be there !!! besides our staff security is more important

    January 21, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
  18. Nina

    Everyone Loves Dr.Bashar in Syria so stop hatin =P
    Every since America put sanctions on Syria the US went from a rich country to broke .

    January 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Reply
    • JFB


      January 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  19. Nina

    Uhummm, well thats just what happens when u lie abt what goes on in the streets of Syria, Truth is ... people love Dr. Bashar....U Americans and Iraqis, Saudi Arabians out there just need to learn to accept it

    January 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
    • Nadia

      you keep saying dr bashar. Well maybe he is breaking everyones teeth in syria so that he can fix it and make even more money. lolllll Girl you must be living on some other planet cause we all know what this man is he is pure evil from inside

      January 21, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
  20. Nina

    Well thats just what happens when u lie abt what goes on in the streets of Syria, Truth is ... people love Dr. Bashar....U Americans and Iraqis, Saudi Arabians out there just need to learn to accept it

    January 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  21. jimzcarz

    Pull all of our Ambassadors out of Islamic run countries. They don't want peace with us,They want us in pieces.
    Remove all AID and Trade. Just take whatever oil we need from what's left of Iraq. I'm tired of these 2-faced snakes.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  22. Alex

    Hopefully the air strikes start soon.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • F

      The US has no business attacking the soverign state of Syria. They should quit meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. There's no need for airstrikes. They're not a threat to the US. The US is also a soverign country, and it doesn't belong to Israel.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Reply
      • The Other Lebowski

        what are you even saying? too many words.

        January 21, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • theDude

      Leave. Bomb. Let someone else rebuild.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:30 am | Reply
  23. jason

    www . haaretz . com/news/international/uproar-after-jewish-american-newspaper-publisher-suggests-israel-assassinate-barack-obama-1.408429 Uproar after Jewish American newspaper publisher suggests Israel assassinate Barack Obama

    why no mention cnn? garbage jew media

    January 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  24. RagMcmuffin

    PINK FLOYD – "Bring the boys back home"

    January 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  25. FU

    Haha...are you syrias?

    January 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  26. jdoe

    Now it's only a matter of time before the airstrikes begin.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  27. matthew

    why would the US ask for the Syrian government's help with increased security around the embassy?

    January 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
    • Tim

      some people in Syria believe the US is responsible for all thier problems... common attitude around the world

      January 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
    • Spencer

      The Embassy itself has about 20+ guards surrounding the outer walls. Increased security would add more personnel from riots etc that could happen. Those guards are equipped with AK's to protect the personnel that work inside. You then have the marines who are based inside the building allowing people to come in and out. I've been there and lived there for 3 years and completely understand why they would ask for more protection.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  28. Rob Hannigan

    In a country where at least 5,000 people have been killed by their own government. I would have hope my country would have done this months ago. Why the hell do we allow you people in Washington to run things in our country. I wish I could fire everyone of you pathetic. I support the people of a country where their is a problem you must blame leadership quality I have for a while believed the quality of leaders in this country has been crap for some time now.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  29. TeaPartyIdiot

    Fill the place with IDE's close the doors and leave.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • Tim

      do you mean "IED"s, idiot?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  30. sheila1942

    Can someone please tell me what the difference is between the Libyan & Syrian revolutions? Why did the US & UN feel the need to "protect" the Libyan people and yet don't feel the same sense of urgency where the Syrians are concerned. Curiously, more Syrian protestors have been killed at the hands of government forces and are still being killed, than Libyan protestors! Hmmm... Makes you wonder!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • Kathryn Harlan

      And we need to just consider this?? What do we as a country stand for....oil??

      January 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Forrest

      The short answer is that we are bullies. Libya was an easy target, isolated with no support. Syria has Iran, and we have no interest in getting our military involved with anyone we aren't sure we can totally dominate.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • TeaPartyIdiot

      How much oil does Syria produce? Get a clue...

      January 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • andee

      Its mostly geographical, with a side of Israel.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
    • Tim

      so you want us to police the world, then?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
      • sheila1942

        Well I'm actually a Ghanaian and I really don't think the US should be the world's policeman. I do however have a problem with the hypocricy of the whole thing. America rushes to bomb Libya because the govt is killing protestors. What would you call what's happening in Syria?

        January 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Miami1111

      Israel doesn't want a democratic Syria. Israel prefers the Assad dynasty. And since the Israeli lobbyists in DC are the most powerful in this country, we are obligated to support Assad the sadistic child murderer.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:07 am | Reply
  31. Tsgt Smako

    Russia wants us to keep our hands and bombs out of Syria, so let's make them happy and go the extra mile, pull out of the middle east altogether. Trained killers are working as contract labor in Saudi Arabia because they aren't rotating through Afghanistan or doing anything else we paid millions to train them to do. If the Russians want to handle the festering septic tank of the world, let them handle it.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  32. Drew

    These people are hopeless. This region can't handle or doesn't want American style democracy. That's fine with me, America needs to understand not every country wants to be like us. So it's time to get out of the middle east all together. Cut all foreign aid to the middle east. When they show they can be a civilized nation, then maybe we can open the checkbook again. But as of now, America has way to many problems that center on money, and we can't afford to keep trying to fix something that is forever broken.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
    • Andrew


      January 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Miami1111

      Doesn't work like that, my friend. We're giving 3 billion a year to Egypt & Israel each. Syria is very important for US foreign policy.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:08 am | Reply
  33. sand and dirt

    Get out of the middle east and let those third world people slaughter themselves.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Dirka Dirka

      After they they waste all of their energy killing themselves then the U.S. should pillage big time.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • Larry Sinful

      It is important for the U.S. to have embassy's across the world.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
      • no name

        Why do we need an Embassy there? A place for Jason Bourne to run to?

        January 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
      • Myron Gaines


        January 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  34. bezboz

    Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from western media. Google that title. 55% of Syrians SUPPORT Assad staying in power and reforming.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • it is sad

      He must be in alot of trouble then... Saddam use to get a 98% approval rating right up until he was overthrown. Night raids on households along with shootig a few out of line loyalist and mustard seed gas tend to make people like you

      January 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
    • Ali Khader

      The Syrians who support this dictator are either stupid or beneficiaries of the regime. Who likes a 40-year era of corruption, lawlessness, and no freedom? Stop insulting us!

      January 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Reply
    • Nina

      Yup Too bad Western Media is behind though Ya know America isnt really western Its America Located Over mexico dont Lower Europe by saying American media is like it

      January 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  35. F

    Good, close all your embassies in the ME, and leave LEAVE. Go away. Quit finding the opposition!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  36. Santa

    Unless the CIA has a post there it makes about as much sense as having an embassy at the North Pole. Unless of course the US wants to see it torched so it can justify a response.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  37. mart

    may? wtff is that supposed to insult people or what. may/ fuuck off usa go suck assad's dickkk

    January 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply
  38. Anonymous

    Arab Spring: another CIA operation that backfired.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  39. Forrest

    Has it been a week already? Time for another token speech/gesture on Syria so we can ignore it for another week. Seriously, the embassy should have been shut down months ago. I'm glad we aren't intervening militarily, but for us to keep relations with a country that is commiting genocide on it's citizens is beyond the pale.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • Buzz Mann

      Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group". Murder and torture sure ,but not quite genocide.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
    • Tim

      Agreed. Cut off ties with the dispicable regime. No military intervention.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Reply
    • Forrest

      Semantics, Buzz Man, one could easily say it is Assads Baath'ists wiping out the majority Sunni population. Which sounds like genocide to me.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  40. momo0828

    Wise move on our part. No need for us to risk American lives unnecessarily. Let the Syrian government answer to its people as it should. I believe that will figure it out....eventually.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  41. Dave

    And here we go. Something is going to happen soon. I'm thinking Syria, Iran, Israel.
    This isn't being done to save money, I'm predicting things are about to get ugly.
    I could be wrong (and most of the time, I am). 🙂

    January 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  42. Shawn

    We need to stop being dependent on Middle Eastern oil so we can gain our ethics and our honor back and stop having ANY relations with nations who treat their women and religious minorities like cattle.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  43. Pete/Ark

    'bout damn time...

    January 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  44. bobcat2u

    With all the crap that's going on over there, they're just now thinking about closing the embassy ? Way to go. There's nothing better than putting your interest before your people.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  45. Maltese Falcon

    Shoulda kicked CIA agent Ford out long ago.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
    • justin

      you are a moron

      January 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  46. dave

    They should have done that a long time ago!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • Shane

      That is what i was thinking

      January 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  47. PR

    Why wasn't this done about a month ago when the violence started? Its time to isolate these radicals.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • dave

      I concur...

      January 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  48. BoredSecurityGaurd

    Well, duh. They need to get those people outta there. No need for any Americans to lose their lives over somthing they have ABSOLUTLEY no control over.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  49. FauxNews

    Great way to save money. No sense having an ambassador any place where they can't do serious partying.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • Yakobi

      Will all that partying going on it should be called "Arab Spring Break."

      January 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply

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