New Foreign Affairs chairwoman blasts 'regrettable' appointment of Syria envoy

The incoming chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee blasted President Obama for making a recess appointment of the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in nearly six years.

Robert Ford was one of six recess appointments announced by President Obama this week. 

“I am deeply disappointed that the president decided to make such a major concession to the Syrian regime," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement Wednesday night. "Using this congressional recess to make an appointment that has far-reaching policy implications despite congressional objections and concerns is regrettable."

The U.S. withdrew its ambassador to Damascus in February 2005 following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The special United Nations investigation into the bombing is still ongoing, but the first two reports suggested Syrian government links to the attack.

“During the past two years, Syria has continued to sponsor violent extremism and pursue dangerous weapons programs, and has also supplied long-range missiles to Hezbollah and reasserted its destabilizing influence in Lebanon at the expense of that nation's sovereignty," Ros-Lehtinen said. "In fact, earlier this year, the president continued the national emergency with respect to Syria due to the ongoing ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ that the regime poses to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States."

Ford, the former ambassador to Algeria, was nominated in February, and Democrats had balked at the stalled nomination.

"Robert Ford's nomination to serve as ambassador to Syria has languished since February, and it’s time to send him to deliver difficult messages in Damascus," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said at a July 20 confirmation hearing for ambassador nominees.

On Thursday, Syria welcomed the appointment.

"Experience has proven, over the past four decades, that Syria is an important player in the region and it is in Washington's interest to have an ambassador in Damascus to understand the political position of Syria," senior Syrian official Issa Darwish told the German Press Agency.