WASHINGTON – Syria
has ended the term of its ambassador to the United States without any apparent notice, but has yet to announce a replacement.
The ambassador's deputy informed Washington of the surprising decision on Tuesday night.
American Ambassador Robert Ford, who has been accused by the Syrian government of intervening in the country's internal issues and stirring up local opposition, returned to Damascus in early December after leaving the Syrian capital following death threats.
The Syrians may be trying to protest his return by recalling their own ambassador.
Ambassador left last week. Syria's Assad (Photo: AP)
In addition, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with seven exiled Syrian opposition members during a visit to Geneva recently, for the second time since the Obama Administration called on President Bashar Assad
to step down.
The US State Department confirmed on Tuesday night that the Syrian government had ended the tour of duty of Imad Moustafa effective December 13 and that Zouheir Jabbour had been notified to the US government as Charge d'Affaires ad interim.
Moustafa, a friend of Assad, was sworn in in 2004 and was said to be the most outcast ambassador in Washington throughout his term.
The Americans even accused Moustafa recently of persecuting Syrian nationals living in the US, who are affiliated with the opposition to the Assad regime.
On Tuesday, Syrian state television showed pictures of military maneuvers with live ammunition and said they were meant to show its forces are ready to "repulse any aggression the enemies of our nations might think about."
Western officials believe such maneuvers, while the Syrian army is in over its head in fighting Assad's opponents, are aimed at conveying a threatening message toward anyone considering a military attack on the country.
According to estimates, they were aimed at conveying a particularly deterring message to Turkey, Assad's former ally, which has turned its back on him since the start of the violent oppression of the popular uprising in Syria.
It's safe to assume that Assad is also trying to prove that despite the anarchy, he still has control over his country.
On Monday, Syria signed an Arab League protocol allowing an observer mission to visit the country and ensure that it was pulling its forces out of the cities and releasing political detainees, but reports on dozens of casualties in the fighting have continued.
Syrian opposition activists say at least 82 people were killed in the country in the past 24 hours, both citizens and soldiers, following heavy exchanges of fire in the Idlib district.