In an op-ed published on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., reversed his previous opposition to appointing a U.S. ambassador to Syria and urged the Senate to confirm Robert Ford, President Obama’s nominee for the post.
Ford has spent the past year acting as liaison to Syria. Because of Senate opposition to sending the first ambassador to the country in nearly five years, Obama made Ford a recess appointment in late 2010. Now that the administration has renominated Ford, Lieberman stands in full support of the nomination because of Ford’s work to build ties with the Syrian people revolting against President Bashar al-Assad.
“Rather than being an envoy to Assad, Mr. Ford is now first and foremost our ambassador to the Syrian people and a bridge to the democratic transition they demand,” Lieberman wrote. “This is a role for which Mr. Ford—an innovative and tough diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East—is uniquely well-suited.”
Lieberman asked the administration to take other steps as well to weaken Assad and drive him from power, including directly calling on the Syrian president to leave. The administration has criticized Assad’s use of violence against his people, but has stopped short of calling for him to step down from power as it did with leaders in Egypt and Libya.
Lieberman also urged the administration to work with Syria’s neighbors and business partners to both isolate the violent regime and ensure humanitarian aid is reaching the people.
“Now the protesters who are under renewed assault need to know that the full moral and diplomatic weight of the U.S. is behind them, and that we are doing everything we can to mobilize the world to their side,” Lieberman wrote.