It’s not easy being Robert Ford. The U.S. ambassador to Syria braved attacks on the American embassy in Damascus by pro-Assad mobs, and even risked his life by traveling to the city of Hama and northern Syria. Now, he has reportedly been recommended as the next American envoy in Cairo — but Egyptians have already organized a campaign against his nomination.
Anti-Americanism soared to new heights in Egypt following the June 30 protests against President Mohamed Morsy. The primary target was U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, whom protesters accused of backing the Islamist government — many carried signs referring to her as a hayzeboon, a word that translates roughly to old hag. Posters in Tahrir Square also blamed President Barack Obama for supporting terrorism — a reference, for the anti-Morsy crowd, to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now, it looks like Ford is in for the same treatment. A report posted on a Canadian conspiracy website accusing Ford of running “death squads” in Syria and Iraq has gone viral in Egypt: The daily al-Masry al-Youm reported the allegations credulously, without any attempt to establish the veracity of the claims. Egyptian reporter Yosri Fouda, one of the most trusted television presenters in the country, also tweeted a link to the report, calling it “a warning for all of Egypt.”
On Twitter, popular hashtags “No to Robert Ford” and “We refuse the American ambassador in Egypt” channeled popular anger at U.S. diplomacy. Egyptians described Ford as “a CIA man”; an heir to CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, who helped orchestrate the coup in Iran in 1953; and the instigator of everything from the Lebanese civil war to the Bahraini revolution.
Some of the anti-Ford graphics, like the one above, are even more outlandish. In addition to implying that Ford supported Shiite militias in Iraq and spearheaded the armed insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the American diplomat stands accused of “playing a serious role” in the emergence of al Qaeda in Algeria. “Mayday: A new Satan is arriving for the destruction of the nation,” reads another graphic.
Ford had reportedly asked to step down as Syria envoy because he was “exhausted” from the years-long uprising. It doesn’t look like his possible posting in Cairo is going to provide him with much of a breather.
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Cable |