Thoughts on Syria and Its Ambassador

By Steve Clemons

Eli Lake wrote a thoughtful piece today in the Washington Times following up on the State Department calling Syria Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha in for consultations given reports that Embassy staff may be video taping Syrian-American protesters in the US in order to intimidate them and use against family members inside Syria.

Some of Lake's and my mutual acquaintances are pillorying some of my comments in the piece.  That's fine -- but here is the full quote that I emailed to Eli Lake when I was on travel in Europe.

Best to put it all out there -- so we can debate what is real rather than what may be taken out of context.

My note to Eli Lake:

Don't have any way of measuring whether his status has fallen -- but common sense says that given what has happened inside Syria, Moustapha is in a complicated and tense situation in Washington.  I last saw Imad Moustapha in his home at a hosted dinner for Amb. Robert Ford.  I would be highly surprised if the Embassy served as a base for intimidation of Syrian-American families but have no sense of this one way or another. 

I think that Moustapha believes in engagement and supports broad economic liberalization.  He is a collector of contemporary art and a blogger -- and I can't imagine that he is not deeply personally stressed by what is happening in his home country -- but just as Ambassadors of the United States need to obey the dictates of policy whether conservative, liberal or neoconservative -- Moustapha must follow the instructions of his home base, or resign. 

One interesting thing to note in Jay Solomon's excellent January 2011 (Wall Street Journal) interview with Bashar al-Assad was that Assad confessed that the size of protests in Tunisia and Egypt meant that the government had failed to get ahead of the peoples' needs and that it was too late for the regimes.  I wish Assad would re-read his own words.

More soon -- catching a flight home to DC from Frankfurt.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2011/07/thoughts-on-syria-and-its-ambassador/241741/