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Obama Sends Ambassador to Syria

Al Jazeera is reporting the somewhat surprising news that President Obama is sending an ambassador to Syria. The United States has not had an ambassador to that country for the last four years. From the article:

By returning a senior US envoy to Damascus, Barack Obama, the US president, is seeking to carve out a far larger role for the US in the region as he works to rehabilitate relations with the Islamic world and the Arab Middle East, the [Washington Post] said.

A senior administration official told CNN: “It’s in our interests to have an ambassador in Syria.

“We have been having more and more discussions and we need to have someone there to engage.”

I say “surprising,” but it shouldn’t be, as relations between the US and Syria have been improving in recent months. What’s surprising is the timing, considering what’s going on in Iran right now, as Syria and Iran are often assumed to be close by US observers, and are connected in the public mind. Perhaps President Obama (or Syria?) is trying to break that link.

In any case, the presence or absence of an ambassador-rank diplomat is largely a symbolic move, and if nothing else gives a bit of leverage to the Obama administration in that the ambassador may now be recalled, which is always a dramatic bit of international theater. Not an overwhelmingly important event, then, but worth noting.

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Categories: Syria