The U.S. may be forced to close its embassy in Syria as the security situation in Damascus continues to erode—unless embattled President Bashar al-Assad agrees to requests to authorize more protection for American diplomats.
“While no decision has been made, we have serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Damascus, including the recent spate of car bombs, and about the safety and security of embassy personnel,” the State Department said in a statement. “We have requested that the government of Syria take additional security measures to protect our embassy, and the Syrian government is considering that request. We have also advised the Syrian government that unless concrete steps are taken in the coming days we may have no choice but to close the mission.”
A State Department official told National Journal the rapidly deteriorating security situation across Syria “demonstrates further that Assad is losing control of the country and reinforces our point that Assad has lost all legitimacy.”
The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, has largely remained in the country during the months of violent clashes between protesters and Syria's military and security forces -- despite attacks on him and the embassy itself carried out by Assad’s supporters. As journalists have encountered difficulties entering Syria, Ford has become a visible face and often lone voice tweeting from inside the country about the crisis. Ford was temporarily recalled to Washington in late October for consultations, as the U.S. accused Syrian state-run media of inciting violence against the diplomat.
The State Department has already begun scaling down its staff at the Damascus embassy, announcing last week it is ordering a number of personnel to depart the country as soon as possible -- even after the U.S. designated it an “unaccompanied post with restricted staffing."
The Washington Post reports the U.S. is preparing to evacuate American personnel from Damascus by the end of the month.