Obama Appoints Four New Ambassadors

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/132488828/132488817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Using his power to make appointments when the Senate is in recess, President Obama has appointed four new ambassadors — to Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic. The four nominees have been waiting an average of five months for Senate confirmation; Robert Stephen Ford, named ambassador to Syria, had been waiting since February. His nomination was blocked by Republicans who didn't want to "reward" Syria as it provides support to Hezbollah and Hamas.

JACKIE NORTHAM: This is Jackie Northam. The nominations for the four ambassadors appointed by President Obama languished for months in the Senate, stalled or blocked by Republican lawmakers for a variety of reasons.

The recess appointments now mean that Matthew Bryza will become the new U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. Norman Eisen will head to the Czech Republic. Francis, or Frank, Ricciardone will be the envoy to Turkey, a critical ally of the U.S. And Robert Ford will head to Damascus.

Ford's nomination is by far the most controversial. A number of senators oppose sending any ambassador to Syria. President George W. Bush called back the previous envoy nearly six years ago, after the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied any involvement in the murder.

Marina Ottaway, with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says Ford's appointment means the Obama White House wants to try a different tact with Syria.

Dr. MARINA OTTAWAY (Director, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): The Obama administration is pushing through with its decision that the way to handle, let's say, the rogue states is to engage with them, rather than giving them the cold shoulder.

NORTHAM: Ottaway says many Republicans in Congress dont agree with the seemingly softer approach. Among them is Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the in-coming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She says Syria continues to sponsor extremism and poses a threat to national security of the U.S. and its allies, such as Israel.

In a statement, Ros-Lehtinen derided Ford's appointment. She says making undeserved concessions to Syria is essentially rewarding it for bad behavior.

But Lawrence Eagleburger, a former career diplomat and secretary of State under George H. W. Bush, disagrees.

Mr. LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER (Former Ambassador and Secretary of State): The appointment of an ambassador is for our purposes, not Syria's. So I dont see why anybody could argue that Syria is being rewarded by our having an ambassador there. To me, thats a specious argument.

NORTHAM: But it's an argument likely to be taken up once Congress reconvenes in January.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.