Unfortunately, the appointment of Ford as Syrian envoy seems to do nothing but compensate Syrian malfeasance. Incoming Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, echoed that sentiment when she said of Ford’s appointment:
Making undeserved concessions to Syria tells the regime in Damascus that it can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda and not face any consequences from the US. That is the wrong message to be sending to a regime which continues to harm and threaten US interests and those of such critical allies as Israel.
Syria certainly doesn’t ascribe to Ros-Lehtinen’s view, laying any blame for its actions squarely at the feet of those in the West. As Syrian President Assad told the German daily Bild:
The problem with the West is that they think they are the world, they forget about the rest of the world. The West cannot just keep following the ostrich policy where they put their head in the ground and they do not want to see what is happening in the world. In the world Syria’s image is very good.
Syria’s image has certainly improved in the eyes of the Obama administration, as it now argues that ending the five-year ambassadorial absence will help persuade Syria to change its policies regarding Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as its willingness to support extremist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Yet, that stance seems to now stand in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s own stated position announced only months earlier, when it was strenuously accusing Syria, Iran and Hezbollah of trying to destabilize Lebanon.
In October 2010, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, had singled out Syria in particular for displaying “flagrant disregard” for Lebanon’s political independence by ensuring that Hezbollah was the most heavily armed militia in the region.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley went further by adding, “These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.”
It remains unclear as to what constructive role Syria has actually played since that time to now warrant a resumption of full diplomatic ties with the United States. Obama’s decision to tap Ford as US ambassador only serves to add confusion to the entire situation.
In either case, Ford’s appointment was greeted warmly by Syria. Issa Darwish, a former assistant foreign minister and a senior member of Syria’s ruling Baath Party, said, “Syria has proven, as President Bashar al-Assad has, that it is for peace. And experience has proven, over the past four decades that Syria is an important player in the region and it is in Washington’s interest to have an ambassador in Damascus to understand the political position of Syria.”
As a nation designated by the State Department to be a “state sponsor of terrorism,” Syria’s political position as a longtime agitator of regional unrest is all too clear. As one analyst said, “Syria views terror as a tool to achieve its political goals. Syria does not have a strong army and is using its terror support to show its presence and make the West take it into account as a major player in the Middle East.”
Unfortunately, the actions undertaken by the Obama administration only serves to demonstrate the wisdom of such a Syrian policy.
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