House Foreign Affairs Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is pressing the Obama administration to do what it probably should have done ages ago: recall Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria. The ambassador drew controversy last week after he participated in a regime-led tour of northern Syria, prompting concerns his continued presence there is being exploited as a propaganda tool.
In a press release today, Ros-Lehtinen said:
“The recess appointment of an Ambassador to Syria was an ill-advised overture to the Syrian regime by the Administration. The Administration should reverse this mistake by recalling the Ambassador immediately.
“Ambassador Ford’s recent participation in a regime-organized tour of northern Syria provided legitimacy to a ploy aimed at covering up the regime’s violence against the Syrian people. It compromised U.S. credibility with freedom and pro-democracy advocates within Syria at a critical time.
“The regime has made it clear though its brutal actions and through the refusal of senior officials to meet with the Ambassador that it is not interested in diplomacy. Any continued presence of a U.S. Ambassador will either be used by the regime for propaganda purposes or just plain ignored.”
The congresswoman’s call comes on the heels of Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bizarre visit to Syria today, where he is expected to meet with President Bashar al-Assad. The trip will likely be hailed by the Syrian regime and its state-run media as evidence Assad has international support and legitimacy. There isn’t much President Obama can do to rein in Kucinich right now, but recalling Ford would certainly send the message the U.S. has no interest in lending legitimacy to the regime.