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SYRIA: U.S. Senate approves Robert Ford as ambassador

October 4, 2011 | 12:07 pm

REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- The Syrian regime has noticed the very public support America’s envoy to Damascus has been giving to the country’s antigovernment opposition –- and so, too, it turns out, have Senate Republicans.

After opposing the nomination of Robert Ford last year, GOP members joined Democrats on Monday night in giving unanimous consent to Ford’s confirmation as ambassador to Syria.

Last year, the Republicans took the view that the administration shouldn’t send any envoy because that would simply reward the regime of President Bashar Assad at a time when he was undermining U.S. efforts across the region. The administration sent Ford, a veteran foreign service officer, under a temporary appointment that was to expire in December.

But in recent months, Ford's actions have persuaded Republicans as well as Democrats that he is a courageous battler for democracy. At personal risk, he has stood by demonstrators, and he has criticized government repression in messages posted on Facebook. Even some conservative groups began joining in the clamor for Ford’s confirmation.

Last Thursday, a crowd of pro-government toughs trapped Ford in the office of an opposition politician and attacked a U.S. motorcade with crowbars and bricks.


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-- Paul Richter

Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, meets with U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford in a Jan. 27 file photo released by the official Syrian news agency, SANA. Credit: SANA / AP