Ford and the Mob

U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford found himself in the middle of a stoning yesterday. A mob of Syrian government supporters swarmed Ford’s convoy armed with rocks and tomatoes. There were no injuries, but vehicles were badly damaged and Ford had to take cover in an office until Syrian security forces arrived. Ford was visiting an opposition figure in Damascus. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded: “We condemn this unwarranted attack in the strongest possible terms.” She added that Ford was just doing his job, and “this attempt to intimidate our diplomats through violence is wholly unjustified.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, who has for the past four years been the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is officially retiring today. Army General Martin Dempsey will take over. President Obama was to speak at the ceremony and VP Joe Biden was to attend.

Amid tension following Washington’s decisions to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of F-16s, Secretary Clinton is painting a rosy picture of the Sino-American relationship. Clinton said that the United States is China’s “committed partner and friend,” lauding the two countries for “seizing this moment in history and developing the positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship envisioned by our presidents.”

Secretary Clinton and President Obama both sat down with Uzbek counterparts yesterday. The presidents discussed expanding supply routes to Afghanistan that travel through Uzbekistan as tension increases between Pakistan—a key transit country—and the United States. Clinton touched on some touchy subjects with the Uzbek foreign minister, namely Washington’s “concerns about human rights and political freedoms” in Uzbekistan.

The commander of the around 5,000 U.S. troops deployed to northern Iraq, Army Major General David Perkins, said that security control in the area is being handed over to local forces. He said that U.S. forces were no longer permanently stationed at checkpoints, which “has gone exceptionally well," and that there’s no need for the troops “to play the role they had, especially in the numbers they had.”

Back at home, VP Joe Biden sat down yesterday with Kuwait’s prime minister to talk about “outstanding issues” with Iraq and the “changes underway in the region as a result of the Arab Spring.” Secretary Clinton also sat down with the prime minister.