As the Syrian conflict enters it's fourth year, it would seem that President Obama has decided enough is enough. Today, the word came down that the Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C. has been officially shut down. Further, all employees of the embassy who are not either U.S. citizens or permanent residents have been ordered to leave the country.
According to sources, this edict has also extended to Syria's "honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan, and Houston, Texas."
This move comes just days after the Syrian conflict mourned it's third full year on March 15. On that anniversary, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that the civil war had claimed more than 140,000 lives (7,000 of whom were reportedly children).
In regard to the motivations for the Syrian ambassador's expulsion, U.S. special envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein explained that Bashar al-Assad (the current President of Syria) had been responsible for countless atrocities and acts of violence, adding, "We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States."
The closure of the Syrian embassies is a nearly unprecedented show of strength on the international stage from the Obama administration and it marks an overt act of aggression in the country's increasingly tense relationship with Kremlin. After all, it's not a stretch to suggest that stirring up trouble with al-Assad's regime is designed to infuriate Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially considering yesterday's sanctions against Russia.
Over the last few tense weeks, President Obama has remained relatively aloof when pursuing actions against Russia and Syria. His demeanor has drawn harsh criticism from opponents who regard his apparent hesitancy as weakness.
Those critics would appear to be off base after this week's actions. In fact, it would appear that the administration wasn't so much fretting about getting in a fight as it was gathering allies in case of a dust up. This sentiment of everyone verse Russia was evident during the President's announcement yesterday in which he made repeated reference to the group of allied countries in the United Nations (who enacted their own sanctions against Russia in conjunction with the United States). In addition, the President also made sure to let everyone know that Russia was on a team of one.
Quite honestly, even if the shutdowns weren't aimed specifically at Putin and the Kremlin (which they totally were), the continued bloodshed and loss of life in Syria is more than enough to warrant a little tough diplomacy from the United States.
It remains to be seen if today's embassy closures will have the desired effect.