Robert Stephen Ford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Robert Stephen Ford
Robert Stephen Ford US State Dept photo.jpg
Ford (circa 2011)
United States Ambassador to Syria
In office
January 28, 2011 – February 28, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMaura Connelly
Succeeded byDaniel Rubinstein
(as Special Envoy)
United States Ambassador to Algeria
In office
May 30, 2006 – June 26, 2008
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byRichard W. Erdman
Succeeded byDavid D. Pearce
Personal details
Born1958 (age 61–62)
Denver, Colorado
Spouse(s)Alison Barkley
Alma materJohns Hopkins University
ProfessionDiplomat, Career Ambassador

Robert Stephen Ford (born 1958) is a retired American diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to Algeria from 2006 to 2008 and the United States Ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014.[1]

Personal life and education[edit]

Ford is originally from Denver, Colorado,[2] but is more recently a resident of Maryland.[3] He earned a bachelor of arts in international studies and a master of arts in Middle East studies and economics from Johns Hopkins University. In addition, he pursued advanced Arabic studies at The American University in Cairo.

In addition to English, Ford speaks German, Turkish, French, and Arabic.[3]

A senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq once described Ford as being "regarded as one of the best Arabists in the State Department".[4]

Ford is married to Alison Barkley, who is a fellow diplomat.[2]


Earlier career[edit]

A career member of the United States Foreign Service, he entered the service in 1985 and has been stationed in İzmir, Cairo, Algiers and Yaoundé.

Ford served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrain from 2001 until 2004, and Political Counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 until 2006.[3]


He was nominated for the position of U.S. Ambassador to Algeria by U.S. President George W. Bush on April 13, 2006. The nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate on April 24 and confirmed on May 27.[3] Ford was sworn in on August 11.[3] He served in the Algiers post until June 26, 2008.[5]


In 2010, U. S. President Barack Obama nominated Ford as the first U.S. Ambassador to Syria in five years (pending U.S. Senate approval).[6] In December 2010, after the U.S. Senate had failed to act on the nomination, Obama used a recess appointment to secure Ford the position.[7] The Senate then confirmed Ford by unanimous consent on October 3, 2011.[8][9] As a result, Ford no longer was serving under a recess appointment and therefore could have held the position until Obama's term ended in January 2017.

On October 24, 2011, Ford was recalled from Syria; the U.S. State Department cited "credible threats" to his safety.[10] Ford had attracted the ire of pro-Assad Syrians due to his strong support of the Syrian uprising. According to American officials, Ford had been attacked by an armed pro-government mob, and Syrian state television had begun running reports blaming him for the formation of death squads similar to those in Iraq. This led to fears that supporters of the Syrian government might try to kill him.[11]

In August 2013, it was reported by The New York Times that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had recommended that Ford serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, following the incumbent ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, being nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs – the head of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs within the U.S. Department of State, which oversees the Middle East.[12]

On February 4, 2014, officials of the U.S. State Department said that Ford was retiring[13] and on February 28 announced his departure.[14]

The U.S. States Department announced the appointment of Daniel Rubinstein as U.S. special envoy for Syria on March 14.[15]

In December 2018, Ford declared his support for President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, describing it as "essentially correct."[16]

Actions in Syria[edit]

He visited Hama, where he was cheered by protesters.[17]

He visited a mass grave at Jisr ash-Shugur.[18] He met with Hassan Abdul-Azim, and was attacked with eggs and tomatoes by government supporters.[19][20] During an interview with the Russian state-run television network [21] Russia Today, former CIA intelligence officer Michael Scheuer alleged that prior to Ford's removal he was traveling across the country inciting groups to overthrow the government.[22]

Later career[edit]

After retiring from government service, Ford was a resident of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, and a professor at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.[23]


Ford is a recipient of several Department of State awards, including the 2005 James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence for outstanding work at the mid-level in the Foreign Service as well as three Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor Awards.[3]

In 2012, Ford was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for his work as the U.S. ambassador in Syria amidst "repeated threats to his life" where he was doing what was characterized as "traveling around Syria to encourage and support peaceful protesters targeted by Assad's brutal crackdown".[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gordon, Michael R. (February 28, 2014). "American Envoy to Syria Steps Down". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Daragahi, Borzou (June 3, 2006). "Progress and Pain Marked Envoy's Tenure in Iraq". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Biography: Robert S. Ford (". U.S. State Department. August 21, 2006. Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  4. ^ "Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing". June 12, 2004. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  5. ^ "Bouteflika Re-Appoints Ouyahia as PM". Middle East Online. June 24, 2008. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  6. ^ "US Nominates First Ambassador to Syria in Five Years". BBC News. February 3, 2010. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  7. ^ Phillip, Abby. "Ford in Spotlight Amid Syria Revolt". Politico. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). United States Senate.
  9. ^ "U.S. Senate Approves Robert Ford as Ambassador". Los Angeles Times. October 4, 2011.
  10. ^ Radia, Kirit (October 24, 2011). "U.S. Brings Ambassador Ford Home from Syria, Citing Threats to Safety". ABC News. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  11. ^ "U.S. Pulls Envoy from Syria over Safety Concerns". CNN. October 24, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  12. ^ Gordon, Michael R. (August 4, 2013). "Former Envoy to Syria Said to Be Choice for Cairo Post". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to retire: sources". Reuters. February 4, 2014.
  14. ^ Staff (February 28, 2014). "U.S. Names Larry Silverman as Temporary Point Man on Syria". Reuters. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  15. ^ Staff (March 17, 2014). "U.S. Names Envoy to Replace Retiring Ambassador to Syria". Reuters. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  16. ^ Ford, Robert S. (December 27, 2018). "Opinion | Trump's Syria decision was essentially correct. Here's how he can make the most of it". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2018. the president should view the hullabaloo that erupted after he announced the Syrian pullout as an opportunity to take a number of steps to make the most of his essentially correct, but widely unpopular, move.
  17. ^ Sheridan, Mary Beth (July 12, 2011). "Low-Key U.S. Diplomat Transforms Syria Policy". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ Watson, Leon (September 29, 2011). "U.S. Ambassador Egged by Angry Mob in Syria Who Tried to Storm Building in Damascus". Daily Mail.
  19. ^ "Robert Ford, U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Pelted with Tomatoes". The Huffington Post. September 29, 2011.
  20. ^ "Syria: U.S. Ambassador Threatened by Pro-Government Crowd". Los Angeles Times. September 29, 2011.
  21. ^ Ioffe, Julia (September–October 2010). "What Is Russia Today?". Columbia Journalism Review.
  22. ^ Scheuer, Michael; Chichakyan, Gayane (interviewer) (November 13, 2011). Ex-CIA Agent: America Creates Its Own Enemies (television production). Washington, D.C.: Russia Today (via YouTube). Event occurs at 03:30. Retrieved January 7, 2012. Until they removed the US ambassador he was running around the country trying to encourage groups to overthrow the Syrian government. That is not the role of any diplomat.
  23. ^ Kelley, Kevin J. (June 8, 2016). "The Former Syrian Ambassador Talks Rutland, His Old Boss and NEK Life". Seven Days. Burlington, VT.
  24. ^ "JFK Awards for 3 Iowa Supreme Court Justices, US Ambassador to Syria for 'Doing What's Right'". The Washington Post. Associated Press. May 6, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2012.[dead link]

External links[edit]

This article contains text in the public domain published by the U.S. Department of State.

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Richard W. Erdman
U.S. Ambassador to Algeria
Succeeded by
David D. Pearce
Preceded by
Margaret Scobey
U.S. Ambassador to Syria
Succeeded by
Daniel Rubinstein