Obama’s Syrian Gamble

Quoted at length by Ben Evansky in LiveShots

Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian human rights and democracy activist, who was forced to flee Syria in 2005 after he criticized Syrian President Bashar al Assad. He says the administration is rewarding bad behavior and that the U.S. decision will only embolden Assad’s regime. Moreover, Abdulhamid is convinced that this kind of concession is “another sign of confusion and weakness on the part of the Obama administration ‪

Daniel Levy a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, and tells Fox News that having an ambassador on the ground is not a gift to the Syrians, but rather part of a toolbox to help conduct effective diplomacy. He says “It is actually easier for the Syrians to avoid and sidestep the pressing issues on the bilateral U.S.-Syrian agenda if American diplomacy is intermittent, fleeting, or low-level .” Levy believes the “non-high-level engagement” that was used during the Bush presidency “was a very poor one indeed, and to continue that approach as its original architects are advocating would be to repeat those mistakes and to invite continued failure.”

Ammar Abdulhamid, founder and executive director of the Tharwa Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to democracy promotion in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, believes the administration is mistaken if it thinks that having an ambassador in Syria, “will facilitate the communication process with its leadership (and) are missing the point.” He says “successive administrations have sent numerous high level delegations to Syria…and that all have fallen on deaf ears.”‪ ‪

Yet it seems that the Obama administration is not considering abandoning its policy, despite the threat by a few senators of holding up the ambassador’s nomination, due to the reports of Syria supplying Scuds to Hezbollah, indeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told reporters that the presence of an ambassador will give the administration a better insight into what’s happening in Syria.‪ ‪

Abdulhamid says that time and time again the U.S. has implored the Syrians to stop terror attacks… prevent the flow of arms to Hezbollah…and to cooperate with UN inspectors who are looking into its aggressive nuclear program. He says in return for Syria’s help, the Obama administration even dropped its insistence on the release of political prisoners and improving the human rights situation in Syria.‪ Abdulhamid has a few words of advice for the administration; he says that “history has shown us that the only thing the current leaders of Syria care about is empowering and enriching themselves at the expense of their people, theirs is a mafia-regime par excellence, and no amount of pragmatism and real politick can change this fact.”‪ ‪

Last month the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations backed Obama’s nominee Ambassador Richard Ford and sent his nomination to the U.S. Senate. A date for a vote on his confirmation has yet to be announced.‪‪