Roundup: U.S. Ambassador to Syria withdraws
Ambassador Robert Ford appears before a full committee hearing on his nomination to be ambassador to Syria at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2010. (Getty Images)
October 24th, 2011
09:58 AM ET

Roundup: U.S. Ambassador to Syria withdraws

Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The United States withdrew Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford (BBC) over the weekend due to "credible threats against his personal safety," according to U.S officials. However, a spokesman for the State Department said Ford had not been formally recalled, and that his return to Damascus would be contingent on an evaluation of "Syrian regime-led incitement" and the domestic security situation.

Ford had cultivated relations with opposition demonstrators, including a July visit to the city of Hama, a hotbed of anti-regime protests (Reuters). U.S. officials say a recent string of inflammatory articles in the state media and attacks on the embassy prompted Ford's departure.

Ford has been an outspoken critic of the Assad regime's violent crackdowns since the uprising began in March. He assumed the ambassadorship just this year, filling a six-year vacancy in Damascus (NYT). 

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In the National, CFR's Micah Zenko argues that overreaching Western eagerness to help Libya's rebels will now make it more difficult to line up meaningful outside support for Syria's opposition.

This CFR Issue Guide provides expert analysis and essential background on some of the central issues facing Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, as the Arab Spring enters a critical new phase.

In the New Republic, Theo Padnos explains how the Assad regime exacerbated the Alawi-Sunni rivalry, bringing the country to the brink of today's sectarian war.


Tunisian Vote Looks to Favor Moderate Islamists

The moderate Islamist party known as Ennahda looks to be leading the vote for Tunisia's constitutional assembly (Reuters) according to a variety of sources. Secular critics fear similar outcomes may be expected in other Arab states holding post-revolution elections.

Tunisians triggered the first of the Arab world upheavals, but can they sustain support for democratic changes? CFR's Victoria Taylor says the elections for a constitutional assembly will test Tunisia's political maturity.

TURKEY: Rescue teams are scrambling for survivors in the aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake (BBC) that struck eastern Turkey on Sunday. The death toll stands at 265, however officials expect this number to climb.


North Korea and U.S. Continue Nuke Talks

Delegations from the United States and North Korea entered a second round of bilateral nuclear talks (Yonhap) in Geneva on Monday. Officials in Washington and Seoul claim the North must halt uranium enrichment and admit UN inspectors before the Six Party Talks resume.

CHINA: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States will maintain its significant military posture in the Pacific, despite domestic fiscal tightening. U.S. officials say the strengthening of forces in the region is part of a U.S. "realignment" as the military draws down from Iraq and Afghanistan (WSJ).


Karzai Remarks Unsettle U.S.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would "stand by" Pakistan in a hypothetical conflict (Guardian) between the United States and that country. U.S. diplomats sought to diminish the rhetoric, emphasizing the mutual threat posed to the three countries by both insurgents and terrorists.

INDIA: Health officials in India say the second most populous country is "close" to its goal of eradicating polio (WashPost). India is one of only four nations where the disease is still endemic, but has not had a case in nine months.


Kenya Cites Western Aid in Fight Against Shabaab

Officials in Kenya claim that Western military partners, possibly the United States or France, provided air support in Kenya's offensive against the al-Shabaab militant group (NYT). However, U.S. spokesmen said neither the CIA nor U.S. armed forces have carried out airstrikes in Somalia over the past few days.

This CFR Backgrounder offers a profile of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant organization based in southern Somalia.

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Kirchner to be Argentina's Next President

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner marked a convincing win in Argentina's presidential election (al-Jazeera), claiming some 53 percent of votes with 75 percent of results returned. Her closest opponent, socialist candidate Hermes Binner, trailed with only 17 percent.

UNITED STATES: The Obama administration deployed Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen to Europe to drum up support for new economic sanctions against Iran (WSJ). The move coincides with the president's Friday announcement of a complete U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, which could open the door for more influence from Tehran.

The pullout of U.S. troops by year's end points to the troubling rift in Iraqi politics and big questions about the country's stability, writes CFR's Ned Parker.


France, UK Clash over Euro Crisis

Deliberations over the crisis in the eurozone (BBC) have pitted UK Prime Minister David Cameron against French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with the former arguing that all European leaders should be involved in the discussions regardless of whether their country actually uses the euro.

GREECE: The world's largest banks are in negotiations with European leaders on the size of the losses they will incur as part of a solution to the Greek sovereign debt crisis (Bloomberg). The EU is asking for financial companies to accept forfeitures of as much as 60 percent, with financial companies proposing 40 percent.

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Topics: Daily Roundup • Syria

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Ambassador Ford has civil courage and was remarkably brave, when he visited demonstrators in Hama in July this summer. I expected then he would anger the regime forces and put himself in danger if he went on showing solidarity with activists who are against Bashar al-Assad's rule.

    October 24, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
  2. Thomas Mc

    We must lie this country into another war, people. Those trillions of tax dollars aren't going to march themselves from the Treasury over to the Military Industrial Complex by themselves, you know!

    October 24, 2011 at 11:28 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would "stand by" Pakistan in a hypothetical conflict (Guardian) between the United States and that country".
    Karzai's regime is weak and incompetent. During Hilary Clinton's visit in the AfPak-region, intensive talks were held between Pakistan and the U.S, that seemed to outline the endgame for Afghanistan. Once again it shows that the answer to Afghanistan's future lies in Pakistan.

    October 24, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      I have to agree. Pakistan is a powerful Islamic neighbor of Afghanistan having both the Taliban and the nukes.

      October 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Reply

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