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Top Syria official leaving the State Department

Fred Hof, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s Special Representative on Syria, is resigning and will leave the State Department later this month, two administration sources confirmed to The Cable. As one of the two senior officials leading the State Department’s Syria team, Hof has been hugely active in the drive to build international cooperation to ...

Fred Hof, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Special Representative on Syria, is resigning and will leave the State Department later this month, two administration sources confirmed to The Cable.

As one of the two senior officials leading the State Department's Syria team, Hof has been hugely active in the drive to build international cooperation to move Syria to a transition away from the rule of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  He often traveled to foreign capitals, including Moscow, to push administration objectives on the Syria issue. He was also the lead on dealing with the Lebanon part of the Syria issue and represented the administration at international events with members of the Syrian opposition to plan for a post-Assad Syria, in places such as Turkey and Berlin.

Fred Hof, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s Special Representative on Syria, is resigning and will leave the State Department later this month, two administration sources confirmed to The Cable.

As one of the two senior officials leading the State Department’s Syria team, Hof has been hugely active in the drive to build international cooperation to move Syria to a transition away from the rule of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  He often traveled to foreign capitals, including Moscow, to push administration objectives on the Syria issue. He was also the lead on dealing with the Lebanon part of the Syria issue and represented the administration at international events with members of the Syrian opposition to plan for a post-Assad Syria, in places such as Turkey and Berlin.

In testimony to Congress last December, Hof delivered some of the harshest rhetoric to date on the Assad regime.

"Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking," he said, adding that Assad’s cruelty and isolation was turning Syria into "Pyongyang in the Levant."

A former Army officer and Vietnam veteran, Hof first came to prominence as the drafter of the "Long Commission" report, which examined the 1983 bombing on the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, where he served as the Army attaché to the U.S. embassy. After a stint at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he moved over to the State Department in 1990 and worked on Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon issues before eventually moving to the private sector.

For the first two years of the Obama administration, Hof worked the Syria and Lebanon portfolios for Special Envoy George Mitchell, preparing those tracks just in case Mitchell’s efforts on the Israeli and Palestinian tracks ever progressed to the point where regional actors would be brought in. Mitchell’s efforts never got that far.

With his departure, the Syria team at the State Department will now be led solely by Ambassador Robert Ford, administration sources said. Larry Williamson, an acting deputy secretary of State in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, will take over much of the Lebanon part of the Syria portfolio. There are no immediate plans to appoint a new Special Representative for Syria, the sources said.

Hof did not respond to a request for comment.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

Tags: CIA, Syria

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