Syria and the United States are now in a diplomatic row. The pulling out of US envoy to Damascus Robert Ford, however, is mired in confusion as to whether that reflects the scaling down of relations or a mere consultative retreat.
Though the State Department portrayed it as a call to address security concerns as the incumbent was in limelight after having openly supported the uprising in Syria, it seems there is fluid in the situation. Damascus too, as a tit-for-tat, asked its ambassador to return home, and the intention behind the not-so-choreographed but spontaneous move has raised concerns as to how the unfolding of events will be handled by both the countries in the region.
The nomination of Ford to Damascus, quite some time back, was seen as one of the most positive development in their bilateral ties - and bad blood since ensued as the Arab Spring went rolling across Syria. President Bashar Al Assad, who had been unrelenting in his policies since the protests broke out killing more than 3,000 civilians to this day, has openly been criticised by the United States, but stopped short of asking for his removal. The recalling of Ford, a distinguished Arabic speaker who has served in several Arab capitals, will have an impact on the region, as Washington is said to have been in a consultative process with its allies in the region. Diplomatic circles are ripe with rumours that Washington is on the verge of demanding Assad's exit, and increasing diplomatic pressure irrespective of the fact that Moscow and Beijing nurse severe reservations in this regard.
This is a delicate moment for both the countries. The unrest in Syria is already creating fissures in the region, and owing to the strategic vitality that the country ?has with Israel and a preferred relationship with Iran, it would be advisable for the ?United States to keep Damascus in its loop, and desist from a rupture. Breaking down of communication channels will be an anathema and come to further compound the situation.
Syria is not an easy nut to crack and the State Department is well aware of its overt and covert potential, as it has been dealing with the Baath regime for the last five decades. Damascus possesses the required synergies to swing surprises and its neo-realignment with Russia and many of the Arab capitals - with which it had estranged relations in the past - will come to its rescue one way or the other. Reinstating their envoys and initiating a dialogue process to normalise the volatile situation is indispensable. A walk-off will serve no purpose.
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