Cracking Down on the Crackdowns

The Syrian regime continues its harsh crackdown on protesters, with around 140 demonstrators killed on Sunday. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to get Russia and China to speak out against Damascus’ actions: “We call on those members of the United Nations Security Council who have opposed any Security Council action that would call on Assad to stop the killing to reconsider their positions.” Those two countries, in addition to Brazil, India and South Africa, did not look favorably upon a draft resolution on Syria that was presented to the Security Council two months ago.

Meanwhile, President Obama sat down yesterday with the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who is in Washington to meet with officials and testify in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Republican senators who argued that sending an ambassador to Syria would be a reward of sorts for the Assad regime held his nomination up last year. Thus far, there doesn’t seem to have been much rewarding going on. Ford hasn’t been all that diplomatic, harshly and bluntly criticizing the regime for its reactions to protesters. He’ll likely return to Damascus next week.

Congress and the White House may have averted a debt crisis, but that doesn’t mean they’ve staved off all the repercussions of this deficit juggling. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an interview that aired today that the debt-limit debate has definitely hurt confidence in the U.S. economy: “I think this is a good result but a terrible process. And . . . I think as the world watched Congress step up to the edge of the abyss, it made them really wonder whether this place can work.” On whether U.S. debt will be downgraded as a result of the narrowly avoided crisis, Geithner says it just isn’t his decision to make, and that credit agencies are “going to take a careful look” at the U.S. deficit problem.

As former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman continues his quest to become president, his replacement, Gary Locke, was sworn in yesterday by Secretary Clinton. He is the first Chinese-American to be the U.S. ambassador to Beijing.