Robert Ford in Baltimore recently.(Baltimore Sun)

Last week, the United States expelled Syria’s ambassador following the Houla Massacre, but the two countries still technically have diplomatic relations, with Ambassador Robert Ford, only recently Senate-confirmed, continuing to launch rhetorical salvos at the Assad regime.

Ford is not currently in Syria: as the Baltimore Sun reports, he’s lying low in his hometown of Charm City. But a State Department spokesperson told me last week, “Ambassador Ford remains the United States Ambassador to Syria and its people. As the president’s representative, he continues his work and engagement with the Syrian people as head of our Syria team in Washington. Together with other senior U.S. officials, Ambassador Ford maintains contacts with the Syrian opposition and continues our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought.”

Part of that has included penning things like this note, published last week on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus’s Facebook page. “The May 25 massacre in the village of Tall Daww, Houla, is the most unambiguous indictment of the regime to date and clearly illustrates Syrian government’s flagrant violations of its U.N. Security Council obligations under Resolutions 2042 and 2043 along with the regime’s ongoing threat to peace and security.” He continued: “We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives, and we encourage all countries to condemn the actions of the Assad regime.”

And then he really went off, going after the regime’s enablers: “Russia continues to supply the Syrian military with arms.” And: “We all know that the Iranian regime’s interests are deeply embedded in the Assad regime’s survival—it is directly supporting the Syrian government through lethal and non-lethal means, and its revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) and intelligence services are coaching the Syrian military.” And: “The IRGC’s Qods force, which takes explicit instruction from the Iranian regime, appears to be helping set up the sectarian government-affiliated militias in Syria commonly referred to as the Shabiha.”

This last observation is especially crucial: the Houla Massacre was ostensibly carried out by these Shabiha, not by men directly under the regime’s control, which some have suggested means the slaughter was a symptom of sectarianism rather than an act of aggression by the regime against its people. That, we now know, is not the official position of the U.S. government, which instead asserts that such horrors are being perpetrated by the Syrian regime with Iran’s eager aid and Russia’s more-than-passive tacit approval. Tough talk like that is bound, eventually, to lead to tough action.

U.S. Expels Syria Envoy Over Houla Massacre [AFP/Google]
A Note from Ambassador Ford [U.S. Embassy Damascus]
Ambassador to Syria Keeps Profile Low in Bolton Hill [Baltimore Sun]
Earlier: Massacre Prompts Move Toward Regime Change
The New Consensus: Confirm Robert Ford!