Obama appoints ambassador to Syria


(JTA) — President Obama used a recess appointment to name Robert Ford as the new U.S. ambassador to Syria.

Ford will become the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005. The Bush administration recalled its ambassador from Syria in February 2005 in the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Harari; evidence pointed to Syrian involvement in the murder.

In 2009, Obama announced that he would place a new ambassador in Syria, and in February he named Ford as his choice. Ford formerly served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and as ambassador to Algeria. 

Obama made the recess appointment, one of six announced on Wednesday, in order to bypass the need for Senate confirmation. The nomination had been held up by opposition from Republican senators.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), slammed Obama’s decision to make the recess appointment. Ros-Lehtinen is the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I am deeply disappointed that the President decided to make such a major concession to the Syrian regime. Using this Congressional recess to make an appointment that has far-reaching policy implications despite Congressional objections and concerns is regrettable," read a statement issued by Ros-Lehtinen’s office. "Making underserved concessions to Syria tells the regime in Damascus that it can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda and not face any consequences from the U.S.  That is the wrong message to be sending to a regime which continues to harm and threaten U.S. interests and those of such critical allies as Israel."

Obama on Wednesday also appointed Norman Eisen as ambassador to the Czech Republic.

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