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President Obama is sending Ambassador Robert Ford to Syria in a recess appointment, avoiding a political fight in Congress over his confirmation. This effort to “engage” the Baathist regime is likely to make Bashar Assad laugh as the U.S. pursues a futile effort to draw Syria away from Iran.
A U.S.-based democratic opposition group called the Reform Party of Syria is criticizing the move, especially due to its timing. The appointment comes only days after Bashar Assad met with a brutal terrorist named Samir Kuntar in his Presidential Palace. Kuntar used to be a member of the Palestine Liberation Front and has been convicted of killing innocent Israelis, including murdering a four-year old girl by smashing her skull with a rock. In November 2008, Assad presented Kuntar with Syria’s highest award after he was released from an Israeli prison as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah.
The engagement comes as Syria continues to host Baathist insurgents and elements of Al-Qaeda responsible for carrying out countless attacks in Iraq and sponsors Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. In March, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a member of Al-Qaeda living in Syria named Muthanna Harith al-Dari who was funding the training of Al-Qaeda members in Syria. The Assad regime’s collusion with these terrorists is so deep that in fall 2009, Iraq tried to have a U.N. tribunal established to prosecute Syrian officials and terrorists on Syrian soil, but failed to gain the support of the Obama Administration.
Syria refuses to allow the International Atomic Energy Organization to inspect three suspected nuclear sites and the agency says it has been uncooperative since June 2008. The Assad regime still will not answer questions about the nuclear reactor it was building with North Korean assistance that was destroyed by the Israelis in September 2007. It has, however, admitted to carrying out uranium conversion activities in 2004 that it previously did not disclose.
The Obama Administration previously backtracked on its plans to send an ambassador in September 2009 because of concerns that Syria using “security blackmail” against the U.S. “Assad fires a rocket here or there [in south Lebanon] and expects us to run to him,” one official said. So far, no one in the administration has publicly explained what has changed between now and then to justify sending the ambassador, though it is probable that it is related to the impending indictment of Hezbollah for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri by a U.N. tribunal.
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