Mideast: US Envoys Face Threats, Assaults

US envoy pelted with eggs and tomatoes before barricading himself in a Damascus residence; US envoy in Cairo threatened with violence.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Robert Ford
Robert Ford
US State Department

US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was pelted with eggs and tomatoes by followers of President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday.

According to AP, Ford was ambushed as he met with a leading opposition figure, after which his attackers attempted to storm the Damascus building where the meeting has taken place.

Ambassador Robert Ford, a vocal critic of Assad's brutal six-month crackdown on anti-regime dissidents, was trapped inside for nearly three hours until Syrian security forces escorted him out.

Ford met with Hassan Abdul Azim, who heads the outlawed Arab Socialist Democratic Union.

The incident comes admid intense fighting in Homs, where over 200 tanks supported by attack helicopters have been deployed to crush an armed uprising by army defectors in a city that has been a focal point for anti-regime protests.

Last week General Riad Assad, the dissident army's leader, told al-Jazeera “it is the beginning of an armed rebellion” against Assad and that “'you cannot remove this regime except by force and bloodshed.”

Meanwhile, US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson was openly threatened with violence by a popular Egyptian cleric who accused her of "stirring up sedition" in the Country.

"Egypt is not Afghanistan. Whoever tries to tamper with its security will get a violent response from the revolutionaries," Mazhar Shaeen, a Muslim preacher, told thousands of worshippers in central Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Patterson, a career diplomat who previously served in Pakistan, arrived in Cairo in August, months after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down.

The threats, which come amid a chill in relations between Washington and Cairo, have led many analysts to question whether the Obama administration's rosy assessment of the Arab Spring as a vehicle for democracy may have overlooked the populist extremism driving the masses.