Washington and Paris say Syrians were shot at in order to stop them from attacking or breaking into their embassies in Damascus. They both accuse Syria of having encouraged such attacks.
Syrians had gathered in front of the US and French embassies to show their protest at the American and French envoys visiting the city of Hama last Thursday and Friday -- an move described by Damascus as blatant interference in its internal affairs and over which it summoned both envoys.
The United States is increasingly seeking to delegitimize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In her first reaction following the incident in front of the US Embassy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad is not indispensible and has lost his legitimacy.
Hama has been the center of widespread protests in opposition to Assad over recent weeks. Different sources estimate that half a million participants joined the demonstrations, which took place on different Fridays there. As foreign correspondents are not authorized to work in Syria, the figures are only reported on the Internet by the opposition. Some observers, however, are of the opinion that the number of the protesters in the city, where 800,000 people live, has not exceeded 70,000.
The US and French ambassadors visiting the city as well as a German diplomat's appearance in Hama raise some questions. According to opposition sources, the city has been cordoned off by the Syrian Army. So, how did these diplomats easily clear the checkpoints?
There are two answers. Either the city is not under siege and the opposition has exaggerated or Damascus allowed or chose not to react to these visits. If so, was this visit after a mutual agreement, which would indicate further agreements, or the US and French envoys fell into the trap Syria had laid for them.
The truth is that due to its support for Israel in the occupation of Arab lands and the killing of Palestinians, the US does not have a good position among Arab countries.
The US ambassador's entry into Hama, while his vehicle is adorned with ornamental flowers gives rise to suspicions among some protesters and Assad opponents domestically and abroad.
These doubts were raised after French writer Bernard Lius, known for his unconditional support for Israeli policies in Palestine, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and a number of other pro-Zionist Jewish figures held a conference in Paris in support of the Syrian people. The participation of a Syrian Muslim Brotherhood representative in the event resulted in new differences among members of the group, which could end with Mohamed Riad Shaqfeh being removed as leader and Hassan Tayfur replacing him.
The US and France's “diplomatic attack” on the city of Hama, the traditional base of the Muslim Brotherhood, was undoubtedly aimed at impacting the national dialogue meeting aunched two days later in Damascus.
The US has not as yet called for the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and some Arab diplomatic sources believe that Washington views Russian opposition to an anti-Syrian resolution at the UN Security Council in a positive light. Even a London-based newspaper claimed that the US and Syria have arrived at an agreement on the 3,000-word “Roadmap,” as well as an overall transformation of Syria's political makeup and texture.
Such reports cannot be verified, but it so appears that the US and France are planning a coordinated move outside the framework of the UN Security Council to mount more pressure on Bashar al-Assad. This move might not be comparable with the Washington-Paris collaboration in Libya, but it is aimed at the further pressuring the Syrian regime.
Could the US wear the disguise of supporting revolutions within six months of the start of developments in Arab countries and pretend to be a major defender of the rights of Middle Eastern nations? Perhaps the unrest following the awakening of the Arab world might help forget the role of the US in street protests and some populist moves, but the issue of Palestine and the US support for Israel will never disappear from the minds of Arab people.
If the United States turns its support for the Arab people's uprisings into explicit intervention, it will not face any fate better than what is happening in Yemen. Protesters in Sana'a shout slogans and carry placards that clearly condemn US backing for Ali Abdullah Saleh. This interference culminated in the meeting of the US president's special envoy with Ali Abdullah Saleh at the counter-terrorism conference in Riyadh and his talks with Saleh's son, who heads the Yemeni presidential guards, in Sana'a.
The US is acting as if it is one of the parties involved in the Yemeni crisis. This role will spread to Syria. Perhaps Bashar al-Assad is waiting to make use of this plot to convince the opposition to join the national dialogue.