POLITICS

Former Syria Ambassador: I Could No Longer 'Defend The American Policy'

06/03/2014 06:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2014

Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria under President Barack Obama, heavily criticized the administration's Syria policy in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour Tuesday.

Ford told Amanpour that had the administration provided more assistance to the Syrian rebels early on, "the opposition would have probably been able to gain more ground a couple of years ago more quickly and been able to go to a negotiating table in a much stronger position." He also added that "the ability of al Qaeda and Islamist extremist groups to recruit away from the moderates would’ve been less. And we would have less of an extremism problem in Syria now had there been more assistance provided to the moderate forces. Even a year or two ago it would've made a big difference."

His comments come as presidential elections are being held in the civil war-torn nation, with current President Bashar Assad expected to win handily.

The U.S. also recently identified the first American suicide bomber in Syria.

Amanpour proceeded to ask Ford, who served as ambassador to Syria from December 2010 until February of this year, and who was also the U.S. ambassador to Algeria under President George W. Bush, if he was frustrated with America's response toward Syria.

Ford didn't hold back:

Christiane, I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy. We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat. And there really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents in contravention of the Syrian government’s agreement in 2013 to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The regime simply has no credibility, and our policy is not addressing the Syrian crisis as it needs to, frankly speaking.

He did, however, defend former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's response to Syria and said “it is now widely known that the State Department thought we needed to give much more help to the armed opposition in Syria, and that was as long as two years ago."

Administration officials signaled last Tuesday that Obama may approve a plan to provide training and equipment to moderate Syrian rebels.

Ford is not the first former administration official to criticize Obama's Syria policy. Former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta both took issue with the administration's policy toward Syria in September.

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