A recent anti-regime protest outside the Syrian embassy in Cyprus.(Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait recalled their ambassadors to Syria in protest of President Bashar Assad and his regime’s mounting violence against its own people—its brutal siege against the once-free city of Hama is now entering its second week, and only yesterday it began a new one in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour. Last week, the U.N. Security Council issued a “presidential statement” condemning “widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.” And last Friday, the United States decided to … send its ambassador back to Damascus so that, to quote a State Department spokesperson, he can “remain engaged with the Syrian government to make clear that the Assad regime’s brutal repression of the Syrian people must cease immediately.”

This is … a curious decision. One need not be a staunch, ideological opponent of engaging with all regimes that one dislikes to nonetheless believe that engagement with this particular regime has run whatever course of usefulness it may have had. Precisely because the U.S. ambassador, Robert Ford, did such a brave, stellar job bringing attention to the plight of the Syrian protesters and staking the U.S. on their side, we can know with all the more certainty that the regime’s response—which was to organize the threatening of the U.S. and French embassies and then to bombard Hama, the very city that Ford visited—indicates that, as columnist Lee Smith argued last week, engagement is futile. At a time when American treasure and prestige is being spent fighting for regime change in Libya, the continual acknowledgment of the Syrian rulers is mind-boggling (well, maybe it’s understandable) and disheartening. Ford’s is a recess appointment, due to expire at the end of the year unless the Senate acts. Hopefully he will be confirmed as the envoy to a totally new Syrian regime at that time. But that is not the smart bet right now.

Washington Sends Its Ambassador Back to Damascus [JPost]
Three Arab Countries Recall Ambassadors to Syria [NYT]
Syria Forces Extend Siege on Hama as Toll Rises [NYT]
Syrian Military Mounts Assult in Another City [NYT]
Security Council Rebuke of Syria Ends Prolonged Deadlock [NYT]
Related: Mad Men [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Assad Cracks Down Hard in Hama