February 10th, 2012
06:21 PM ET

U.S. sees "fear and foreboding" in Syria

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.

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Filed under: Assad • Syria
soundoff (17 Responses)
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  5. DT

    The US always pulls its embassy out before it does something with force. Always has, always will. The occupy protests were met with violence, imagine what would have happened in the US if Iran or North Korea had armed the occupy protestos to face off the police, then the National Guard. From Assads point of view, these are foreign armed, (lets say CIA and Mossad for arguments sake) well organised infiltrators fighting the country's legitimate military and police using guerrilla tactics and deadly smuggled arms. Just saying......

    February 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  6. Jerry

    Here is a concept our government should adhere to. Get its nose out of world affairs! If the Syrian people want freedom bad enough they will take it themselves. We did it for ourselves back in 1776. Yeah the french showed up at the end to acknowledge our statehood. But the fighting was done by ourselves. To me this is just another drain on the budget, lets rack up another few trillion dollars in that deficit. President Obama, congress, house of reps..... stop worrying about what the rest of the world does and focus on our rotting infrastructure and budget. We have roads and bridges that need fixed, more job creation, if you look around houses that used to be nice are falling apart because owners cant afford the upkeep anymore their job was outsourced. There are still millions homeless in our own country, there are still hungry and poor here yet we can feed somalians. When the US can afford to be charitable then it should, but we definately cannot afford it at the moment.

    February 12, 2012 at 7:01 am | Reply
    • malasangre

      Lafayette would disagree. and supplying guns and ammo is exactly what they did. read a BOOK

      February 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • robroy

      good one Jerry,do you folks want to know how things are listed as valuable assets to your past administrations in Washington.Congress has past an act that if civil war breaks out in Saudia Arabia,U.S. marines will land with their gear and secure the oil fields. I'll guarantee you if those Saudi's didn't have their oil there would be a lot of dead Saudi's an their camels something like,you know where the civil war is going on now,that's right SYRIA hang your heads or look the other way folks.

      February 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Reply
  7. matt a.


    February 12, 2012 at 12:34 am | Reply
  8. matt a.

    The Syrian government seems to be acting in ways that don't seem to indicate an "isolated" position.
    If your a Russian or a Chinese citizen armed with the knowledge that Syria is a far flung territory of both nations,you're not reassured by the "no" votes by your respective delegations at the UN last week.

    How much can Putin come across as a calculating, mass murderer by proxy?

    February 12, 2012 at 12:31 am | Reply
  9. original nunya

    dont be fools the death toll numbers are inflated and guess what county syria borders..funny how all the other countries around this state are falling like dominoes..ask que bono? who benefits?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  10. brown

    The U.S. would have already began military operations if Syria had energy wealth. The only reason to respond now
    is to deny Iran its key ally. hahahaha! Die humans!

    February 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  11. Warrior

    The US needs to end this carnage , its got to stop at least we are not turning our backs to it but we need to get real stiff with assad and get him gone! Havent these people had enough?

    February 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  12. gelovin

    You have brought a bomb and democracy in Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, on the order, and let's Saudi and Qatar and Syria are more democratic

    February 11, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
  13. mipolitic

    mr ford sounds like a stand up guy, to bad he does'nt have stand up support behind him, one day he will write a book to give us a glimpse the situation from his few including his request and orders from the white house.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Reply

    why is Bashar al-
    Assad still in power? He should get down 4 peace to rain, may be rain of bullet will do the magic

    February 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply

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