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Posted at 01:35 PM ET, 06/14/2011

On Syria, Crowley is done with being diplomatic


(JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Oh, to be a diplomat. And then to be a free man.

P.J. Crowley, until recently the top spokesman for the State Department, has been anything but bashful since leaving Foggy Bottom. Before, he had a podium. Now, he has a Twitter account.

 This morning, a day after President Obama told NBC News that, if he were Rep. Anthony Weiner, he’d resign, Crowley spots an opportunity to riff on the crisis in Syria and the administration’s policy on President Bashar al-Assad:

It's odd that #Obama thinks @RepWeiner should resign, but not #Assad. Sending lewd tweets violates public service, but not killing people?less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Ooof.

 A stick in the eye for the administration but hardly the first. Since leaving the State Department, Crowley has consistently offered views that would have been verboten were he still at the State Department. (Not that he was always on best behavior while in the job.)

 Earlier this month, Crowley tweeted, “In #Syria, #Assad's legitimacy is going, going...but the United States still struggles to say it's gone. Plenty of final straws available.”

Before that: “It remains unclear why #Assad still merits a chance to lead the transition in #Syria when #Qaddafi forfeited that right in #Libya.”

 And: “#HillaryClinton said that #Assad's crackdown ‘shows his true intentions.’ Yet the administration can't bring itself to say he needs to go.” 

The administration has steadily escalated its condemnation of Assad’s government, but it has been unwilling to call for his resignation, or more subtly, to say that Assad has lost the legitimacy needed to rule. That has been a huge frustration for Syrian protesters as well as Western rights activists.

And, apparently, for a former State Department spokesman as well.

Update, 1:35 p.m.

In an interview, Crowley acknowledged that the administration faces difficult challenges on Syria.

In the cases of Libya, where the administration long ago called for the resignation of Moammar Gaddafi, the United States had the backing of both the Arab League and the United Nations. On Syria, it’s unlikely to have the same support.

“The dilemma for us is that we are at the cusp of change in a crucial part of the world,” Crowley said. “While the United States won’t control what happens, we have to be seen as siding with those who are in fact demanding change.”

He added: “I understand our reluctance to take sides, but my fear is that over time, if we fail to strongly identify ourselvse with these protesters — at the moment when it counts the most — then we will not be able to reset relations with the region as the president has said he hoped we would, beginning with his Cairo speech two years ago.”

Crowley, who has taken a job in academia, said his former colleagues at the State Department haven’t had a response to the public statements he’s made since he stepped down. But he knows they’ve seen them.

“They’re very aware of the tweets I’ve made and the pieces I’ve written,” he said.

By  |  01:35 PM ET, 06/14/2011

 
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