A trusted source with strong links to the diplomatic community in Damascus has told GlobalPost that at least 13 Western diplomats in Syria revealed in private conversations that they had suffered threats and abuse at the behest of the Assad regime, including kidnap, imprisonment, beatings and even raids on their homes.
The leak comes as Washington pulled its ambassador, Robert Ford, out of Syria citing "credible threats against his personal safety in Syria," prompting Damascus to recall its ambassador from Washington, plunging US-Syrian relations to their lowest ebb since 2005.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Ford was expected to return to Syria and demanded the Syrian government provide for his protection and end what she called a "smear campaign of malicious and deceitful propaganda" against him.
"The concern here is that the kinds of falsehoods that are being spread about Ambassador Ford could lead to violence against him, whether it's by citizens, whether it's by ... thugs of one kind or another," she said.
The US has called for Assad to step down and Ford had antagonized the Syrian regime with his high-profile support for the demonstrators trying to end 41 years of Assad family rule. Ford’s convoy was pelted with eggs after he visited a senior opposition figure in Damascus and the US embassy has come under attack from Assad’s supporters.
Read GlobalPost: US ambassador journeys to heart of Syria’s revolt