By Jamie Crawford
Syria's government is becoming "more and more isolated," as the world watches the violence within its borders, the U.S. ambassador to Syria told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday.
There is a palpable sense of "fear and foreboding" across Syria as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad continues its assault on the country, Ambassador Robert Ford said.
Ford, who evacuated Syria earlier this week with the remainder of the American staff amid security concerns, spoke from Paris in an interview that aired on CNN's "Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
"It's horrific, it's repulsive," Ford said of reports hundreds of people have been killed in Syria's third largest city, Homs, this past week.
In addition to the carnage playing out across Syria, Ford said, the Syrian people are also suffering from a rapidly contracting Syrian economy. With factories and businesses closing, people are losing their livelihoods as the price of food skyrockets, fuel supplies run scarce, and many cities and towns across the country experience extended periods of no electricity.
With no U.S. presence inside Syria in the wake of the embassy closure, Ford posted an unclassified satellite photo on the embassy's Facebook page purporting to show the regime's military assault on Homs.
"We know who is shelling Homs and it is not the armed groups, it's the government, and that's why I wanted that picture" posted online, he said.
Ford said the opposition in Syria has rifles and machine guns, but it is only the government that has artillery, which can be seen in the photo being deployed within Homs. Syrian government assertions that an armed opposition is shelling Homs are "completely disingenuous" he said. "It's absolutely horrifying and the international community cannot stay silent about this."
Asked if he saw parallels in Homs to the 1982 assault on the Syrian city of Hama in which tens of thousands were killed, Ford said the current situation "bears a lot of resemblance." In a meeting with Syrian government officials last April, Ford said he told officials a large-scale assault like that in Hama could not happen now, with the world bearing witness through the Internet and other communications.
"The world can see what the Syrian government is doing, and the Syrian government, as a result, is growing more and more isolated," Ford said.
Going forward, he said, the United States will work with its allies to increase pressure on the regime through the existing sanctions and, possibly new ones. The United States will also work with the opposition in Syria to impress on them the need to "step up and do a better job at chipping away" at Assad's remaining support inside Syria.
The opposition needs to "reassure Syrians that they have a way forward that will provide a better Syria for all of the Syrian people," he said.
With an estimated 65,000 Syrians having been driven from their homes, leaving many without any shelter or money, Ford said the United States stands ready to work with the international community to find ways to provide assistance on the emerging humanitarian problem.
Evacuating the embassy was necessary when the Syrian government did not address the added security concerns the United States had for the embassy and its staff, he said.
"It's a very hard thing to say farewell to loyal and dedicated Syrian employees of the American Embassy, and it was absolutely wrenching to take down the American flag" at the embassy and leave, he said.
Ford will return to the United States to direct embassy functions from Washington. Poland will serve as the 'protecting power' of American interests in Syria in the absence of a functioning American embassy.