US floats candidates for next envoy to Syria

Ex-ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, outgoing US Consul General in J'lem Jacob Walles under consideration.

jacob walles 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
jacob walles 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer sharply denied reports Monday that he was under consideration to become the next American ambassador to Damascus. Kurtzer, who also served as the envoy to Egypt and has been a strong supporter of US President Barack Obama, told The Jerusalem Post that the speculation had no basis in fact, and that "nobody's called" him in connection with the post. His name had been floated along with that of outgoing US Consul General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles following the recent announcement from US officials that America would be returning an envoy to Syria for the first time since 2005. The US ambassador had been recalled following the assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, with Syrian involvement suspected but not proved. The move to return an ambassador is a sign of further efforts by the Obama administration to engage Damascus and try to wean the Iranian ally from Teheran's orbit. Syria expert David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said of the timing of the announcement that it was definitely connected to the turmoil in Iran and the administration's efforts to take advantage of Teheran's perilous moment. "[They want] to maximize the press on Iran, to make them concerned that Syria is contemplating a change of camps," he said. The announcement of the intention to return an ambassador was a gesture in and of itself, he noted, and urged the Obama administration to see whether Syria's positive words towards America would be met with actions before taking the additional step of designating an envoy. "I don't think there's any rush," he said. Among the factors to be weighed will be how high-profile an appointment the United States wants to make. While the Syrians would like a big-name representative, the US might be inclined to follow tradition by appointing a career foreign service officer to the post. State Department officials said they had no further information on who was likely to be tapped for the post.