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Syria: Opposition see US Envoy’s departure as warning to regime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Syrian activists’ see the US step of withdrawing Ambassador Robert Ford from Damascus as a prelude for possible international intervention in Syria.

In the first official comment on the issue by the Syrian National Council, Radwan Ziyadah, the council member and director of the Syrian Strategic Studies Center, has considered “the ambassador’s withdrawal a strongly-worded American warning to Damascus and the prelude for an imminent American escalation to curb the massacres that are committed against the Syrian people after concluding the Libyan matter and turning to the Syrian dossier.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The strongly-worded American statements we recently heard are the best proof of a change in the US stand toward escalation.” He did not expect “the US ambassador to return to Damascus soon despite the State Department’s assurances he would return” and said: “We saw the withdrawal of the US ambassador from Damascus when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated and he returned only five years after the Syrian-US estrangement and hence today’s situation in not much better.”

While stressing that “neither the Syrian opposition nor the Syrian National Council demanded the withdrawal of foreign ambassadors from Damascus” he pointed out that “it is in the opposition’s interest today that the ambassadors remain as eyewitnesses of what is happening and monitor what the Syrian regime is committing against the demonstrators.” He added: “Amb. Ford demonstrated exceptional courage through his moves toward the opposition inside Syria. We were hoping he would stay and exercise his unique role but the regime’s large campaign of incitement against him has apparently endangered his personal safety.” Ziyadah ruled out the possibility of the other Western countries’ withdrawal of their ambassadors from Damascus and called on some Arab countries “to take a similar step and sever diplomatic relations with Syria, particularly as some countries are taking non-honorable stands against the Libyan people, such as Lebanon.” He said: “The Lebanese Government’s stand is harming the historic relations between the two peoples and it should be brought to account for its collusion with the regime.”

In reply to a question about the possibility that the American step is a prelude for international intervention in Libya, Ziyadah said: “This issue is under serious discussion in the decision-making circles. We as National Council are now pushing for the issuance of a UN Security Council resolution that protects the civilians by imposing a no-fly-zone and establishing a buffer zone at the Turkish borders for the defecting soldiers.”

The US ambassador’s withdrawal caused several conflicting reactions among Syrian activists in the social contact websites. One activist said “the withdrawal of the US ambassador from Damascus can be linked to remarks by US Senator John McCain for the first time about possible military intervention in Syria to protect the civilians.” He added “this means that military intervention to end Al-Assad dictatorship’s rule of Syria has become very imminent.” Several activists reacted to this interpretation by saying “the United States would have closed its embassy in Damascus if this scenario was true, or at least expelled the Syrian ambassador from Washington or even recognized the Syrian National Council.”