Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and a proponent of engagement, argues that recent concerns about Syrian behavior should not stop the Obama administration from sending its ambassador nominee to Syria. According to Politico, “This is a misguided debate,” Kurtzer said. “Having an ambassador in Syria is a U.S. interest as it allows us to deliver our messages clearly and to understand better the Syrian situation.”
This is, of course, nonsense on two fronts.
(1) The United States has an embassy in Damascus, albeit staffed with more junior diplomats. They are just as capable as an ambassador to pass messages and, indeed, have for the past several years.
(2) The United States can pass messages to the Syrian ambassador at the United Nations. This is what we have done with other rogue states.
The simple fact is that restoring an ambassador legitimizes Syria and its stonewalling into the investigation surrounding Rafik Hariri’s assassination as well as its support for Hezbollah, a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other but Al Qaeda.
The simple fact is that engagement with the Assads of Syria is a fool’s game with a record of consistent failure (in contrast to a spotty but still more positive record of coercion against Syria).