the dubious credentials of US ambassador to damascus, robert ford

Death Squads in Syria? (extracts)
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, Aug 16 2011

US Ambassador Robert Ford arrived in Damascus in late Jan 2011 at the height of the protest movement in Egypt. The previous US Ambassador to Syria was recalled by Washington following the 2005 assassination of former Prime minister Rafiq Hariri, which was blamed without evidence on the government of Bashar Al Assad. The author was in Damascus on Jan 27 2011 when Washington’s envoy presented his credentials to the Al Assad government. At the outset of my visit to Syria in Jan 2011, I reflected on the significance of this diplomatic appointment and the role it might play in a covert process of political destabilization. I did not, however, foresee that this process would be implemented within less than two months following the instatement of Robert Ford as US Ambassador to Syria. The reinstatement of a US ambassador in Damascus, but more specifically the choice of Ford as US ambassador, bears a direct relationship to the onset of the protest movement in mid-March against the government of Bashar al Assad. Ford was the man for the job. As “Number Two” at the US embassy in Baghdad (2004-2005) under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte, he played a key role in implementing the Pentagon’s “Iraq Salvador Option”. The latter consisted in supporting Iraqi death squadrons and paramilitary forces modelled on the experience of  Central America. 

The Western media has misled public opinion on the nature of the Arab protest movement by failing to address the support provided by the US State Dept as well as US foundations (including the National Endowment for Democracy) to selected pro-US opposition groups. Known and documented, the US State Dept “has been been funding opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, since 2006. ( CBC, Apr 18 2011) The protest movement in Syria was upheld by the media as part of the “Arab Spring”, presented to public opinion as a pro-democracy protest movement which spread spontaneously from Egypt and the Maghreb to the Mashriq. The fact of the matter is that these various country initiatives were closely timed and coordinated. (Chossudovsky, Jan 29 2011) There is reason to believe that events in Syria, however, were planned well in advance in coordination with the process of regime change in other Arab countries including Egypt and Tunisia. The outbreak of the protest movement in the southern border city of Daraa was carefully timed to follow the events in Tunisia and Egypt. It is worth noting that the US Embassy in various countries has played a central role in supporting opposition groups. In Egypt, for instance, the Apr 6 Youth Movement was supported directly by the US embassy in Cairo.

Since his arrival in Damascus in late Jan 2011, Ford played a central role in laying the groundwork as well as establishing contacts with opposition groups. A functioning US embassy in Damascus was seen as a precondition for carrying out a process of political destabilization leading to “regime change”. Ford is no ordinary diplomat. He was US representative in Jan 2004 to the Shi’ite city of Najaf in Iraq. Najaf was the stronghold of the Mahdi army. A few months later he was appointed “Number Two Man” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs) at the US embassy in Baghdad at the outset of Negroponte’s tenure as US Ambassador to Iraq (Jun 2004-Apr 2005). Ford subsequently served under Negroponte’s successor Zalmay Khalilzad prior to his appointment as Ambassador to Algeria in 2006. Negroponte’s mandate as US ambassador to Iraq (together with Ford) was to coordinate out of the US embassy, the covert support to death squads and paramilitary groups in Iraq with a view to fomenting sectarian violence and weakening the resistance movement. Ford as “Number Two” (Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs) at the US Embassy played a central role in this endeavor.

To understand Robert Ford’s mandate in both Baghdad and subsequently in Damascus, it is important to reflect briefly on the history of US covert operations and the central role played by John Negroponte. Negroponte had served as US ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. As Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, he played a key role in supporting and supervising the Nicaraguan Contra mercenaries who were based in Honduras. The cross border Contra attacks into Nicaragua claimed some 50,000 civilian lives. During the same period, Negroponte was instrumental in setting up the Honduran military death squads, “operating with Washington support’s, [they] assassinated hundreds of opponents of the US-backed regime.” (Vann, Nov 2011) Negroponte also brought into the team one of his former collaborators Colonel James Steele (ret) from his Honduras heyday. (Jamail, Antiwar.com, Jan 7 2007) Negroponte described Robert Ford while at the embassy in Baghdad, as “one of these very tireless people who didn’t mind putting on his flak jacket and helmet and going out of the Green Zone to meet contacts.” Ford is fluent in both Arabic and Turkish. He was dispatched by Negroponte to undertake strategic contacts. (Newsweek, Jan 8 2005) The plan had the support of the US-appointed Iraqi government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Under Negroponte’s helm at the US Embassy in Baghdad, a wave of covert civilian killings and targeted assassinations was unleashed. Engineers, medical doctors, scientists and intellectuals were also targeted. The objective was to create factional divisions between Sunni, Shi’ite, Kurds and Christians, as well as weed out civilian support for the Iraqi resistance. The Christian community was one of the main targets of the assassination program. The Pentagon’s objective also consisted in training an Iraqi Army, Police and Security Forces, which would carry out a homegrown “counter-insurgency” program (unofficially) on behalf of the US. While conditions in Syria are markedly different to those in Iraq, Ford’s stint as “Number Two Man” at the US Embassy in Baghdad has a direct bearing on the nature of his activities in Syria including his contacts with opposition groups.

In early July, Ford travelled to Hama and had meetings with members of the protest movement (WaPo, Jul 12 2011). Reports confirm that Ford had numerous contacts with opposition groups both before and after his July trip to Hama. In a recent statement (Aug 4), he confirmed that the embassy will continue “reaching out” to opposition groups in defiance of the Syrian authorities. New CIA head Petraeus, who led the MNSTC “Counter-insurgency” program in Baghdad in 2004 in coordination with Negroponte, is slated to play a key intelligence role in relation to Syria, including covert support to opposition forces and “freedom fighters”, the infiltration of Syrian intelligence and armed forces, etc. These tasks would be carried out in liaison with Ford. Both men worked together in Iraq; they were part of Negroponte’s extended team in Baghdad in 2004-2005.

3 Comments

  1. lafayettesennacherib
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    But meanwhile here’s what the ‘real left’ are telling young school leavers taking their first tentative steps to exploring the world beyond the MSM and parliamentary politics ( from the UK SWP’s ‘Socialist Worker’ today:

    ” The government has repeatedly lied over its attacks on the civilian population—calling demonstrators “armed gangs” and claiming protesters have machine guns and grenades. ”

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=25704

    Cut and dried then. We know who the goodies and baddies are, and we’re for the goodies, just like NATO.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Well, this statement is just plain wrong:

    The Syrian navy used war ships to fire rockets at the port city of Latakia on Sunday.

    There were initial reports to this effect, but they were universally repudiated after a few hours.

  3. hans
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    There were initial reports to this effect, but they were universally repudiated after a few hours.

    Not by the hypocrite the AngryArab

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