Yesterday a pro-government mob attacked the U.S. embassy in Syria, as well as the residence of the American ambassador. The mob smashed windows, threw fruits and vegetables, and spray-painted graffiti on walls — apparently in protest of a visit of the American ambassador to Hama, a Syrian city that is a center for protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
If I were in charge, I would close the embassy now and get the Americans out of there. Although all American embassies have a military guard, the main responsibility for security at embassies lies with the host country. In this case, Syrian forces were slow to respond to the mob — possibly because the attack on the embassy was orchestrated by the Syrian government.
I don’t know why there is an American embassy in Syria in the first place — it is not exactly a friendly country in that difficult region of the world — but I see no reason to stay there if the Syrian government isn’t going to honor its obligations under international law. Having an embassy in Damascus is not essential to our national interests, and leaving might actually increase pressure on the Syrian regime to change its repressive ways. In any event, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where a Middle Eastern government teetering on the brink seeks to drum up popular support by blaming the Great Satan and taking Americans working at the embassy hostage, or worse. Being old enough to remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis, I don’t want to risk seeing it repeated.
Through its inaction, the Syrian government has given us fair warning. It’s time for us to go.