Former envoy Ford slams Obama over Syria policy
Robert Ford says U.S. has to get ahead 'of the curve' to help end conflict in Syria
Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, has criticized his government’s policy on resolving the more than three-year-old conflict in the Arab country, saying the Syrian opposition should have been given more support.
“There really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about ninety-three percent of some of [President Bashar] al-Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents,” Ford told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
The television interview was Ford’s first since stepping down as U.S. ambassador to Syria this May. He left Syria in February 2012 as the unrest in the country began to escalate.
“I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy,” he said, referring to his decision to step down as ambassador.
“We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat.”
The former envoy said U.S. policy had “evolved” more toward State Department thinking on the need to providing the Syrian opposition with more robust support but he said the policy needed to go further.
Ford also said the United States and its allies had the “tools” that could place further pressure on Assad.
“Especially as the extremist threat to the United States and to our friends emanating out of Syria grows, I think we really must consider carefully whether or not we are doing all we can to help our friends in Syria,” Ford said.
He also acknowledged that Assad’ current position of strength was due to support from outside powers like Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.
"We're always a little bit behind the curve. And we need to get ahead of the curve. That is important,” he said.
“They [moderate opposition] need to get the tools they must have to change the balance on the ground, at least in some localities.”
“And by the way, they're actually winning in the north of Syria. Assad has done well in the capital, down south. But in the north, the moderate opposition is actually gaining ground.”
“We will need friends on the ground – not American soldiers, but friends, Syrians – who are fighting those groups and we need to help those people in their fight against Al-Qaeda. And we need to do it urgently.”