The latest US experiment with having an open embassy in Syria appears to have come to a close today. The administration has issued an angry public condemnation of the Assad government and announced that the embassy will be closed in protest against the incipient civil war.
The closure, which seems to be permanent (or as permanent as these things ever are), puts an end to Ambassador Robert Ford’s tenure, less than two years after the administration put him forward as a candidate for the first ambassador to Syria since 2005, when President Bush had likewise issued an angry public condemnation of the Assad government and closed the embassy.
Ford’s brief term will be memorable primarily for his decision to attend public protests against the government to which he was supposed to be the ambassador, as well as the time pro-Assad protesters threw tomatoes at him. Perhaps his most impactful moment was a Facebook post in which he insisted that the official US position was that the Syrian government couldn’t theoretically reform, setting the stage for increased US hostility and the embassy’s eventual closure.
Whereas opening the embassy was presented as a moment of hope, in retrospect there appears to have been no effort by Ambassador Ford to improve US ties with Syria. To skeptics it would seem that the only reason the Obama Administration even went to the trouble and expense of reopening the embassy was so it could issue a high profile condemnation and leave dramatically.