US President Barack Obama on Tuesday named career diplomat Robert Ford as the first ambassador to Syria since Washington pulled its official representative from the rogue nation in 2005.
The move was part of Obama's broader initiative to alter America's image in the Middle East by engaging even those dedicated to the downfall of the US and its allies.
"[Ford's] appointment represents President Obama's commitment to use engagement to advance US interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people," announced White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Gibbs indicated that Obama hopes a more soft-handed approach to Syria will result in that nation's regime being more helpful in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions and forging peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Israel, for its part, has refused to engage in serious peace talks with Syria until the latter ends its public support for anti-Israel terrorist organizations. Groups such as Hizballah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad today maintain their administrative headquarters in Damascus.