Republicans are intensifying pressure on the Obama administration to recall its ambassador to Syria, arguing that the U.S. policy of engagement has done nothing to stop President Bashar al-Assad’s government from cracking down on protesters.
On Monday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, became the latest Republican to call for Ambassador Robert Ford to come home. Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) have also said that Ford should be recalled.
“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,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “Any continued presence of a U.S. ambassador will either be used by the regime for propaganda purposes or just plain ignored.”
Administration officials, while condemning Syria’s actions, have argued that Ford has been able to meet with opposition figures and to provide information and analysis that can been used to refute the government’s propaganda.
Last week, however, the administration policy came under renewed attack after Ford participated in a tour orchestrated by the Syrian government. The tour had been organized to demonstrate that the government is not sponsoring violence against its people.
Ros-Lehtinen on Monday said the ambassador’s participation in the tour “provided legitimacy to a ploy aimed at covering up the regime’s violence against the Syrian people” and “compromised U.S. credibility with freedom and pro-democracy advocates.”
Ford was named ambassador to Syria in a recess appointment by President Obama at the end of last year. He was the first American ambassador to Damascus since 2005.
President George W. Bush withdrew the previous ambassador after allegations that Syrian intelligence officials were involved in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.