US Ambassador Robert Ford resigned from his State Department post a month ago, after a long and difficult time as the envoy to Syria. Ford showed great personal courage in his service while Bashar al-Assad instigated attacks on Western embassies and eventually provoked a massive civil war which has turned into a regional threat, thanks to the collapse of his power in large regions of Syria. The collapse of American policy in Syria over the past year was presumed to have prompted Ford’s departure, which he confirms with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview today.
This is interesting for more than just the rebuke to the aimless foreign policy of the Obama administration, though:
“I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy,” he said. “We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat.” …
“There really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about ninety-three percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents.”
At the beginning of Syria’s conflict, the U.S. State Department – including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – pushed hard for America to provide robust support for the moderate opposition; that recommendation was not borne out.
This seems to hint at a disconnect on Syria between the Hillary Clinton State Department and the John Kerry State Department, which has focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict much more than the Syrian civil war. There probably isn’t much of a disconnect, though, even if there is a difference in focus. Obama blew whatever political capital he had for an intervention in Syria by drawing and then erasing his “red line,” and ended up surrendering control of the situation to Vladimir Putin.
The idea of intervention keeps coming up, but Ford was right to get out when he did. The recent Obama pivot on foreign policy was supposed to set the stage for a more activist policy, but Obama so thoroughly booted it that he ended up arguing against an intervention — and inadvertently validated the Iraq War.
This part of Ford’s remarks (not included in the video clip) contains its own possibly unintended but devastating criticism of the Obama/Hillary foreign policy in Libya. Ford’s talking about Syria and Assad, but it’s not exactly rocket science to apply this to the US-led effort to topple Moammar Qaddafi:
Assad “physically does not control two-thirds of Syria,” Ford said. “And we warned even as long as two years ago that terrorist groups would go into that vacuum, as we had seen in places like Afghanistan and Somalia and Yemen and Mali.”
“This is not rocket science. In a place where there is no government control, terrorist groups can infiltrate in and set up places where they can operate freely.”
“And we warned this would happen in Syria, and it has.”
Two years ago, by the way, was before the Benghazi attack, and Mali specifically resulted from creating the failed state in Libya. Ford’s criticism goes directly to the heart of the Obama/Hillary foreign policy decision to decapitate the Qaddafi regime without controlling the situation on the ground. It will be interesting to see how many others connect the dots on this argument, even if Ford may not have intended to do so himself.