US envoy for Damascus after Assad publicly mocks Hillary Clinton
On Feb. 25, when the Iranian and Syrian presidents met in Damascus to confirm their military pact, they publicly mocked the US and its demands for Bashar Assad to distance himself from Tehran and made fun of secretary of state Hillary Clinton in person. On March, US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman summoned Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha for a quiet reprimand.
But still the Obama administration is going easy on both Iran and Syria. In fact this week it asked the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee to confirm the appointment of Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years.
Neither Clinton nor any other administration member has referred to Assad's public insult to America and herself – in dramatic contrast to their harsh reaction to a bureaucratic step by Israel – for which prime minister Binyamin apologized – to approve the deposit of a long-term plan to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem. Since then, a week has gone by with Washington never tiring of berating Israel day by day.
The Syrian president has shown no contrition – nor was any demanded by the Obama administration – for joking: "We have met today to sign a separation agreement… We must have misunderstood because of a bad translation or our limited understanding, but instead signed an agreement to cancel visas."
He was responding to Clinton's assertion that his relationship with Iran was "deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States."
Assad took his time to reply to Washington's diplomatic complaint. He finally relayed his answer not directly but through French president Nicolas Sarkozy, thereby turning a demonstrative cold shoulder to the United States government.
In his message, the Syrian president warned Washington frankly for the first time to stop expecting him to break off or degrade his ties with Tehran. In so doing, he has snatched a key Obama foreign policy goal out of the administration's grasp. He explained that his bond with Iran was less ideological than strategic, grounded in the Arabs' need to keep up their "resistance" to Israel. The Syrian-Iranian bond, says Assad, will peter out of its own accord when this need disappears.
Syrian contempt, intransigence and commitment to Arab violence against Israel have not discouraged the Obama administration in its courtship of this terror-sponsoring dictatorship. A senior emissary, John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, later affirmed his belief that "it is important to have diplomatic representation in Syria.
On March 14, The Wall Street Journal wrote succinctly:
"Mr. Obama's foreign policy pattern to date: Our enemies get courted; our friends get the squeeze. It has happened to Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras and Colombia. Now it's Israel's turn."