US-SYRIA-CONFLICT-PROTESTThe Obama administration marked the third anniversary of the start of Syria’s civil war Tuesday by ordering Damascus to close its embassy in Washington and expelling its diplomats, though it did not break diplomatic relations with President Bashar Assad’s government. The order was issued “in consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people” and because Syria has halted consular services, Daniel Rubinstein, the new U.S. special envoy for Syria, said in a statement. “We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States,” he said. The State Department notified Syria that it must immediately suspend operations at its embassy in Washington, and at its honorary consulates in Houston and Troy, Mich. Syrian diplomats at those posts who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must depart the United States. MORE