U.S. Relationship With Assad Reaches New Low

The State Department’s announcement effectively closes the Syrian embassy in Washington.

A rebel fighter burns a Syrian flag found in a building that belonged to Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo on November 21, 2013. Fighting for a key military base outside Syria's main northern city of Aleppo killed at least 15 pro-government militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 18, 2014, 8:31 a.m.

The United States took an­oth­er step Tues­day to dis­tance it­self from Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad’s gov­ern­ment.

Daniel Ru­bin­stein, who was ap­poin­ted spe­cial en­voy for Syr­ia on Monday, said that the “United States no­ti­fied the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment today that it must im­me­di­ately sus­pend op­er­a­tions of its Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and its hon­or­ary con­su­lates in Troy, Michigan, and Hou­s­ton, Texas.”

The de­cision comes as the Syr­i­an civil war enters its fourth year, and Ru­bin­stein said that in light of the “at­ro­cit­ies the As­sad re­gime has com­mit­ted,” the ad­min­is­tra­tion has “de­term­ined it is un­ac­cept­able for in­di­vidu­als ap­poin­ted by that re­gime to con­duct dip­lo­mat­ic or con­su­lar op­er­a­tions in the United States.”

The Syr­i­an em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton said last week that it stop con­su­lar ser­vices as of Tues­day. 

In light of the State De­part­ment’s de­cision, any Syr­i­an dip­lo­mat or con­su­lar who is not a U.S. cit­izen or per­man­ent res­id­ent has to leave the coun­try. 

The com­ments echo a You­Tube video that Ru­bin­stein pos­ted Monday. Ru­bin­stein said that “As­sad will go to any length to main­tain power,” adding that the civil war has been “a somber oc­ca­sion and a sober re­mind­er to all of us of the work still needed.”

And des­pite the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s latest move, Ru­bin­stein said the United States will to carry on its dip­lo­mat­ic re­la­tions with Syr­ia “as an ex­pres­sion of our long­stand­ing ties with the Syr­i­an people, an in­terest that will en­dure long after Bashar al-As­sad leaves power.”

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry an­nounced Ru­bin­stein as the spe­cial en­voy for Syr­ia on Monday.

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