US pulls envoy out of Syria

Based on "credible evidence" against his personal safety, the State Department has recalled Ambassador Robert Ford.

Ford has been an outspoken advocate against Assad's brutal crackdown and last month, a mob of Assad's paid street bullies attacked Ford's car and nearly had him in their clutches.


Ford was attacked by a pro-government "armed mob" last month, a United States official told CNN at the time. The official is not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

Ford, who has been outspoken against the Syrian government's use of violence against protesters, is seen by Syrian government supporters as an activist more than a diplomat.

Ford sparked a diplomatic firestorm in July when he traveled to the restive city of Hama to express support for demonstrators. He was welcomed with flowers by local residents who had suffered a brutal crackdown by government forces. President Bashar al-Assad's government called the trip an attempt to foment dissent.

A crowd tried to assault Ford and embassy colleagues September 29 "as they went about doing the normal work of any embassy," State Department spokesman Toner said at the time.

"The mob was violent; it tried, unsuccessfully, to attack embassy personnel while they were inside several embassy vehicles, seriously damaging the vehicles in the process," Toner said.

Syrian security officers helped secure a path back to the U.S. Embassy for the ambassador and his staff.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned we she described as "an unwarranted attack" when Ford and his aides were conducting "normal embassy business."

No word on when Ford will return. He has considered himself a "witness" rather than a diplomat, carefully cataloguing Assad's crimes and giving strong support to the demonstrators. A technical case can be made that he was indeed, a partisan in the revolt. But I would hope any American diplomat would be as courageous in the face of brutal oppression as Ford proved to be.