WASHINGTON – Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria throughout its civil war, has gone public with harsh criticism of the Obama administration’s policy on the crisis, over three years since the conflict began.
Ford said that the State Department and the White House have constantly wrestled one another over the pace of American assistance and training of moderate Syrian rebels fighting for the ouster of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In over two years working from Washington on the matter as the crisis deepened, “we were constantly behind the curve,” Ford told PBS’s Newshour.
“That’s why now we have extremist threats to our own country. We had a young man from Florida, apparently, who was involved in a suicide bombing, and there will be more problems like that, I fear.”
Ford said that the 92 percent of chemical weapons exported from Syria are only of a portion of Assad’s massive stockpile.
Assad agreed to rid himself of those weapons under threat of American force last September.
Now, Assad is using chlorine – a less potent, but still deadly chemical weapon – against his own people, in contravention with the Chemical Weapons Convention he signed mere months ago, Ford charged.
The State Department said that reports of chlorine use have not been independently confirmed.
“The efforts we have made to date have not worked,” Ford said. “They have not put enough pressure on the regime on the ground.”
US officials said that Ford, a lifelong diplomat, is now a private citizen with the right to air his private views.
They defended the president’s position, however, noting that in a speech at West Point last week, he vowed to increase arms and training to opposition forces.