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TEL AVIV – The Obama administration has bypassed the U.S. Senate by directly appointing four new ambassadors, including the first U.S. envoy to Syria since 2005, during the Christmas recess for Congress.
It marks the second time President Obama bypassed another agency or government branch to appoint a new ambassador to Syria.
WND reported in July that Obama bypassed Hillary Clinton’s State Department in his announcement he would send a new ambassador to Syria, even disrupting agency negotiations with the Syrian government aimed at extracting concessions from the Damascus regime for the stepped-up diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Syria several years ago in protest against the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, an attack widely blamed on Damascus.
Now the White House has picked a career diplomat for the post as part of an announcement regarding four new ambassadors despite some senatorial opposition based in part on the proposed envoys’ experience.
In the case of Syria, a number of senators were concerned sending an ambassador would reward Syria for its increased militant stance.
Syria is in a strategic and military alliance with Iran. It has been accused of helping fuel the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Syria is a state sponsor of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, reportedly helping the Iranian-backed Hezbollah to arm itself with more than 10,000 missiles and rockets. Also, leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations are based in Syria.
The White House announced Obama was using his power to make recess appointments to fill envoy posts to Azerbaijan, Syria and NATO allies Turkey and the Czech Republic. Career diplomat Robert Ford will become the new ambassador to Syria.
When the Obama administration announced in June it would send a representative to Damascus, it did not obtain any concessions from Syria in exchange, a top official from Syria’s Information Ministry told WND in July.
The official said Syria was in consultation with the State Department at the time about the possibility of renewing an American ambassadorship to Syria in a major upgrade of relations with the Damascus regime. The official said the White House announcement on the ambassador came without Syria first agreeing to preconditions for the move.
The official claimed that Syria would not have ended its relationships with Iran, Hezbollah or various Palestinian organizations in exchange for the sending of a U.S. ambassador regardless of State Department negotiations.
“There was no concession regarding any Syrian principles for having an American ambassador,” the information ministry official said, speaking from Damascus.
“We would not accept any interfering in the Syrian sovereignty and the Syrian right to have independent foreign relationships,” said the official, referring to Syria’s military alliance with Iran.
The picture emerging from Syria seems to jibe with a Washington Post column in July by Jim Hoagland, who quoted diplomatic sources as stating that White House decision makers had unilaterally determined the U.S. would send an ambassador to Syria.
The announcement of the selection of Ford Wednesday – which provided Damascus a major prize – took State Department officials by surprise, according to Hoagland.
A U.S. official who spoke to WND last week confirmed a working group within the State Department was in the process of negotiating concessions from Syria as part of the appointment processe.
The U.S. official told WND the White House had hastily leaked the news of an ambassador, thus relieving Damascus of any need to negotiate or reciprocate with any concession.