Syrian government attacks on ordinary people can't be equated to rebel violence, the United States ambassador to Syria wrote in an impassioned message on Facebook on Thursday.
Ambassador Robert Ford wrote that he was horrified by the videos streaming from Homs and other embattled cities and "disturbing photos offering proof that the regime is using mortars and artillery against residential neighborhoods":
The Arab League protocol, which received wide support from the international community, called for the Syrian military to withdraw from residential areas, to stop firing at peaceful protests and to release prisoners arrested due to the unrest. The film coming out of Homs and elsewhere in Syria shows the Syrian government's real response. And we have never heard of the armed opposition firing artillery for example. It is odd to me that anyone would try to equate the actions of the Syrian army and armed opposition groups since the Syrian government consistently initiates the attacks on civilian areas, and it is using its heaviest weapons.
Ford said that suspending operations at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, a move announced early this week, was "the most emotionally taxing day of my career" in the foreign service:
We and those other embassies requested extra protection measures from the Syrian government, given the danger to both our citizens and the Syrian citizens that worked with and near us. Our concerns were not addressed.
He ended on a wistful note:
We and our international partners hope to see a transition that reaches out and includes all of Syria's communities and that gives all Syrians hope for a better future. My year in Syria tells me such a transition is possible, but not when one side constantly initiates attacks against people taking shelter in their homes.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria, covers his nose during a visit with other foreign diplomats to a mass grave north of Syria last June. Credit: Bassem Tellawi / Associated Press