With Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi now dead, the world has turned it gaze east, to Syria, where protests against President Bashar al-Assad continue.
As violence and unrest escalated over the weekend, the Obama administration pulled U.S. ambassador Robert Ford out of the country over credible threats against his personal safety, a government spokesperson told BBC.
With both pro- and anti-Assad protestors taking to the streets, Ford's safety has become a concern. Last month, Ford was hit by eggs and tomatoes while visiting with opposition leaders, and he was later trapped in his office by pro-Assad demonstrators who stormed the embassy in Damascus.
“We hope that the Syrian regime will end its incitement campaign against Ambassador Ford,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington today.
“This decision was based solely on the need to ensure his safety, a matter we take extremely seriously.”
Ford has vocalized his support for the anti-government protests, which began in March. The largely peaceful demonstrations have often deteriorated into clashes between the Syrian military and protestors, and around 4,000 people -- primarily unarmed demonstrators -- have been killed since the unrest began.
Ford has visited the city of Hama, one of the most active cities in the revolt, and seen the mass graves of Jisr ash-Shugur, where more than 300 people were killed during a protest in June.
The Siege of Jisr ash-Shugur has become one of the most important events in the uprising so far. Following a day of protesting, the Syrian army invaded the 40,000-person city with tanks and helicopters on June 4. According to reports, some of the government forces and police defected and joined the protestors, at which point the army was ordered to kill the mutineers.
The Syrian government blamed the violence on armed gangs who were targeting protestors and soldiers alike. In the days following the event, tens of thousands of Syrians fled into Turkey.
Although Ford is leaving Syria, the U.S. embassy in Damascus will remain open. Additionally, the Syrian ambassador to the United States will stay in Washington D.C., according to The Associated Press.
With Tunisia holding presidential elections and Libya's former-rebels building a new government, the Arab Spring movement has been a powerful agent of social change, but Syria has thus far proved to be the exception. Protestors are undeterred by Assad's brutal and violent crackdown, but Assad's grip on the country is troubling humanitarians and world leaders.
I don't think there's anybody in the region or outside who knows how to tackle the Syria issue, Jordan's King Abdullah told CNN.
I've spoken to Bashar twice. I have sent the chief of the royal court to see him on several occasions, he added. Not that we've got anything perfect, but you know, national dialogue and outreach -- and they're not really interested in what we have to say.
So we're trying to keep the channels of communication open and watching with great concern how things are going to develop there.