Relations falter with Syria in the wake of the seemingly credible threats against Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford was sent to be the ambassador to Syria by the Obama administration, in an effort to strengthen ties with the country and help mitigate the potential for a “state supporter of terrorism”
From 2004 until recently, tension between Syria and the United States grew drastically, causing in 2005 the Bush administration to recall its ambassador to Syria. During this time, Syria also increased their relations with Iran and radical Palestinian groups. This connection has caused even more stress between the governments of Syria and the United States. As of 2009 The United States has attempted to strengthen the relationship with Syria, through varied political institutions, such as congressional meetings. This culminated in December 2010 when Obama used a recess appointment to make Ford the ambassador to Syria.
This looked to be a good step in improving the stressed relations between the two countries. However, the actions of a number of Syrian protestors have brought that into question. Recently, Ford was the target of a number of intimidation attempts by pro-government aggressors, in an attempt to stop his vocal support of peaceful protests in the country. Once again, these issues were elevated when a credible threat to Ford's personal safety was brought up. He then made a strategic retreat the weekend of October 21st in hopes of calming the pro-government aggressors.
The State Department confirms that the embassy in Syria will remain open throughout this problem. In this statement, Mark Toner, the State Department spokesman, also stated that it was only Ford who was under the threats. The political actions seem to only target him, rather than United States involvement within the region.
It is unsure whether or not Ford will return to Syria, which creates a number of political problems. Through the actions of the Syrian government, and protestors, it is seemingly obvious that there is political support for these actions. For example, recently when Ford was attacked with eggs and trapped in a building, the police were quite slow to respond.
These actions create a major problem when focusing on the relations between the United States government and the government of Syria. It is understandable that Syrian officials do not agree with, or even like, the fact that Ford is vocal about his beliefs. However, international statutes define certain conditions that must be met for all diplomatic individuals, such as ambassadors. Since Fords presence was becoming a threat to the governments political beliefs, there were aggressive means used to silence him.
While the Obama administration focuses on the politics of liberal internationalism, there still must be a defense of American rights within the region. Yes, in this ideology, the government has the right to decide who they wish to allow into their sovereign nation. However, since Syrian officials have accepted Ford into the position of ambassador they are required to provide their official duties, in this case protection.
If the United States allows the pro-government activists of Syria to bully and dictate the United States ambassador to the country, then a horrid precedent will be set. Nations who do not appreciate the liberal, vocal government activists and politically minded ambassadors will be able to use scare tactics to, not only influence, but indirectly delegate government decisions of the United States. This also shows that the United States government is willing to give into fear campaigns and can have even worse repercussions down the line.
In my opinion, the best solution for this problem is to return Ambassador Ford to Syria. Of course, I argue for a stronger guard and protective detail to ensure the most safety possible. This is in addition to filing charges in the United Nations and other agencies for Syrian failure in this political realm. I would respect the official wish of the country, but force Syria to directly rescind Ford's right to enter the country, rather than allowing such underhanded tactics to succeed. This is done to show, not only the respect for the government of Syria, but also to show a willingness to defend its own soverign decisions.