by Ryan Mauro
Last Saturday, U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford made an unnoticed mistake. In an interview with the Arab press, he questioned the wisdom of arming the Syrian rebels because, in his estimation, they probably won’t topple Assad and it’ll just lead to more bloodshed.
You can bet that Assad and his enemies read every statement that Ford makes and here’s what they heard: The U.S. believes the regime will defeat the rebels and the West probably won’t come to their aid. There are few messages that are worse to send, especially when the U.S is calling on Assad to step down from power.
Robert Ford has, for the most part, been a remarkable ambassador. On many occasions, he met with opposition political activists and spoke on their behalf. He attended funerals for protesters murdered by the regime’s thugs, infuriating Assad. When he joined crowds of protesters, he was met with cheers, flowers and olive branches.
His admirable record in Syria, though, does not excuse this mistake and he should be called out for it so it doesn’t happen again. The last thing that the U.S. should do is encourage the regime when its morale is falling and discouraging its opposition when its morale is rising.