Robert Ford Delivers Harsh Message After Aleppo Attack

Syrian government forces deploy themselves in the streets of Syria's second city Aleppo on February 20, 2013. 'The clashes ar
Syrian government forces deploy themselves in the streets of Syria's second city Aleppo on February 20, 2013. 'The clashes around Kwayris military airport were fierce today, and there were also intermittent battles around Aleppo international airport and Nayrab military air base,' the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights' director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. AFP PHOTO STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2011, when Robert Ford was Ambassador to Syria and still living in Damascus, he often took to the embassy's Facebook page to deliver blunt messages to the Syrian government about its management of the brewing uprising there, and words of encouragement to the opposition.

It was a seeming break from protocol for normally aloof top diplomats, but Ford always saw the direct communications -- which occasionally extended to directly responding to anonymous internet critics -- as an essential tool of his job.

"One of my roles I think now is to remind them they have a lot of support from the international community," Ford told HuffPost at the time. "I think any good American ambassador should be able to write something and understand what the policy is and be able to put it up on a Facebook page."

Since closing the embassy and returning to Washington, where he has run the Syria shop at the State Department, Ford has had a lower profile, and his usual candor has been largely reserved for Middle East policy panels and backroom deliberations.

But on Wednesday, after an apparent government launched rocket attack destroyed a wide swath of residential buildings in Aleppo, Ford returned to Facebook with zeal. (At least 19 people were reported killed in the attack.) Beneath a photograph of the carnage that had been provided to news outlets by an opposition group, Ford condemned the regime for its "appalling" actions in terms that left no doubt about his personal level of outrage.

"This is a clear sign of the regime's ongoing disregard for human life and its deliberate attempts to harm Syrians, for which it feels no remorse," Ford wrote on the Damascus embassy page. "Like so many Syrian cities - Homs, Dara'a, Deir az-Zour, Hama, Damascus, and Rif Damascus - Aleppo has been devastated by the regime's brutality."

He went on:

And to think, amidst this carnage, that the regime has the audacity to demand reparations from the West for the effects of our sanctions. Our sanctions - which are aimed at people like Bashar al-Asad, Rami Makhlouf, Jamil Hassan, and Ali Mamluk who fire the SCUDs - are intended to disrupt the regime's ability to finance its violence against the Syrian people. They are designed to target the regime, its state-owned entities, and its sources of revenue so it is harder for it to buy military equipment for the army, the shabiha, the jaysh-ash-shaabi.

So our message to the regime is simple: stop the repression, stop the attacks on cities, and step aside so that a transition can go forward. The world is watching, and the regime's officials who order such attacks like the one on Aleppo will be held accountable.