Hours later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad has lost
legitimacy and that his regime should be replaced by a democratic
This marked the first time that the administration of President
Barack Obama deemed Assad as no longer deserving of power.
"From our perspective, he has lost legitimacy," Ms. Clinton said. "Our
goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic
The Assad supporters, whose assault appeared to reflect military
training, also attacked the French embassy and were met by armed security
guards. The French Foreign Ministry reported
that three embassy employees were injured during the battle in which guards
fired into the air.
"Protesters tried to enter the embassy, but the security service blocked
access to its territory, and the attackers failed to get in," a French
ministry spokesman said. "Self-defense measures were taken, but nobody shot
at the crowd."
The assault came a day after the Assad regime condemned the governments
in Paris and Washington for sending their ambassadors to the northern city
of Hama. Hama, the stronghold of the revolt, has been attacked by the
military and security forces.
"Hama and the Syrian crisis is not about the U.S. at all," Ford said in
a statement. "This is a crisis the Syrian people are in the process of
solving. It is a crisis about dignity, human rights, and the rule of law."
Diplomats said Marine Corps guards prevented the Assad supporters from
entering the U.S. embassy compound. They said Marines fought with several of
the demonstrators before they withdrew.
"We had U.S. Marines around the facility and when they made it clear
that they were prepared to defend our facility the mob went back over the
walls," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The attacks on the Western embassies came amid an escalation in protests
against the Assad regime. Over the last few days, hundreds of thousands of
Syrians called on the president to resign.
Western diplomats said those who attacked the French and U.S. embassies
appeared to come from the Alawite militia, Shabiha. They said Shabiha, which
has played a major role in the crackdown on the opposition, brought at least
four buses full of fighters to Damascus from the Mediterranean coastal city
"Our main concern here is that the Syrian government, rather than
dealing with its own internal problems and rather than addressing the
grievances of its own people, is seeking to make distractions around our
embassy," Ms. Nuland said.