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Did Syria order mob attacks on embassies? And how should US respond?

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The pro-government protesters in Damascus – which the State Department said were egged on by a Syrian television station closely aligned with the government – also attacked the US ambassador’s residence and the French Embassy.

In its own statement Monday, the French government said its embassy was "the target of attacks and acts of vandalism by well-organized groups under the eyes of Syrian security forces, who were clearly not in a hurry to halt the violence." French officials said the security forces went so far as to allow the mob to use a "battering ram" to try to break down the embassy gates.

But the most serious damage resulted at the US Embassy, where protesters managed to scale a wall and then smash windows and spray paint “dog” on the wall – a particularly harsh epithet in Arab culture, in this case intended for US Ambassador Robert Ford.

Ambassador Ford infuriated the regime and its supporters last week by visiting the city of Hama, the symbolic epicenter of the Syrian opposition movement. Ford, the highest-ranking American official in Syria, visited Hama – as did his French counterpart – after reports emerged of Syrian security forces surrounding and attacking the city.

Ford was greeted enthusiastically by residents of Hama, but the government cited what it says was an unauthorized visit as proof that the US is fomenting antigovernment unrest in Syria.

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