By Perry Bacon Jr. and Karen DeYoung
Thursday, December 30, 2010; A04
President Obama on Wednesday appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005, using a recess appointment to bypass opposition from Senate Republicans.
Because he was appointed while the Senate is in recess, Robert Ford, a career diplomat, will not need Senate confirmation. But he can serve only until the end of the next session of Congress, which will likely be in December 2011.
Ford's nomination was held up by a group of GOP senators who complained that the administration had failed to articulate a viable policy toward the Syrian government, which has been charged with supporting Hezbollah militants and other anti-Israel groups.
The Bush administration withdrew its ambassador from Syria in February 2005 to protest the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Syrian intelligence officials were suspected of being behind the killing, a claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected.
Ford was one of six long-stalled nominees Obama appointed Wednesday, including ambassadors to Turkey, the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan. The president also appointed James M. Cole as deputy attorney general.
Cole's nomination had stalled in the Senate because of Republican concerns about his comments about terrorism and his work as an independent contractor for the insurance giant AIG.
Cole had waited nearly five months for a Senate vote on his nomination to the Justice Department post, by far the longest delay to fill that position in the past 30 years.