Ford: Troubleshooter or troublemaker?
Needless to say, Ford proved his professionalism and excellence in all posts he served in the Middle East. He was not only a trusted source for the State Department but also a source of concern for the countries in which he worked.
His unmatched skills enabled him to work and establish ties with different political actors. He is a man who can spot contradictions and skillfully exploit them. One of my Algerian friends told me that Ford was capable of even talking to the devil, meaning that his skills put him in a position to talk to various types of civil and Jihadi oppositions. It was for this reason that some 19 civil Egyptian organizations protested against his appointment as the new ambassador replacing Anne Patterson, who almost had an experience similar to that of April Catherine Glaspie in the latter’s capacity as the last American ambassador just before Saddam invaded Kuwait.
Patterson used to meet the Ikhwan to incite them into holding on to their demands. Simultaneously, she would use the same ploy with other political forces. In the past, Patterson filled in the American administration with Egyptian politics, and argued that the Ikhwan were in full control and that the demonstrations would not impede the Islamists. Some Egyptians saw her tactics as nothing but a scheme to destabilize Egypt.
Egyptians are apprehensive about the appointment of Robert Ford, given the critical situation the country is now. Some Egyptians believe that there is an intention to duplicate a new Al-Nusra Front in Egypt, which compelled the American administration to be a bit more watchful and unwilling to put extra pressure on the army. Therefore, the return of Mursi is hardly possible.
The question is whether the appointment of Ford would unleash the genies in Egypt! Another important question is regarding Ford’s experience in countries that witnessed anarchy. Is his appointment a reflection of that kind of experience or designed to serve stability? The answer to this question entails scrutiny.
Not surprisingly, many Egyptians fear that his appointment would only lead to confrontation between Ikhwan and Copts. Egyptians have vivid memories of what took place in Iraq, Syria, Algeria and Bahrain. Ford was closely connected to these events. Egyptians are worried that the Ikhwan, motivated by their closed mindset, may chose the catastrophic option. Another reason that bothers the Egyptians is that Ford is also expert on Orientalism and he worked for the intelligence apparatus in the past.
Perhaps, the testimony of Martin Indyk, the American envoy for peace in the Middle East, is more than enough to make the Egyptians concerned. He said there should be a man with a sharp look in Algeria and that Ford was the best to diagnose this situation and its perils internally and externally.
Additionally, Egyptians link him to Negroponte when they worked together in Iraq. Maybe it is worth pointing out the role played by Negroponte in Honduras during 1981-1985, when he played a key role in supporting the Contra gangs. Egyptians also remember that Ford returned to the CIA in 2000 when his term in Algeria came to an end. He was then commissioned to work out a mechanism to deal with various Iraqi political forces to pave the way for occupation. He was also in charge of coordinating with neighboring countries, especially Iran and Turkey. In fact, he was the liaison officer with the Iraqi opposition.
Apparently, Egyptians are aware of Ford’s portfolio, particularly his term in Iraq and the role he played in supporting the Shia organization and the Iraqi tribal revival. His contribution to organizing the “Free Syrian Army” is well known. This must be frightening especially with the Ikhwan talking about the need to establish a free army for them in Egypt.
In fact, Ford has considerable power in sewing the threads of coalitions and alliances among the political forces in Iraq, regardless of their differences and contradictions. In Iraq, he left no stone unturned in his bid to realize the American objectives. According to many Iraqis, Ford was one of those who believed in an old security theory which links accelerated used of violence and realization of peace. For this reason, they blame him for the sectarian events in Iraq. Sabbah Naji said that Ford was inciting the Shiites against the Sunnis and vice versa.
The opposition newspapers in Egypt are abuzz with articles and reports on the appointment of Ford. They believe that Ford is following in the footsteps of Roosevelt who brought down the Iranian government of Musadaq in 1953. It also talked about him as a key player in the Lebanese civil war in the early 1980s. It is no secret that he supported the Shiite activists in Bahrain. The head of the National Union for the Organization of Human Rights in Egypt, Mohammed Abdulnaim, said that there is Arab blood in the hands of ambassador Ford. This man has a long disgraceful history with the Arabs, and that they had now brought him to Egypt to create instability.
The moot question is what has changed? Have the Egyptians indeed changed? Has their fear about revolution blinded them not to see reality and their country’s strategic relationship with Washington? Or has the American foreign policy vis-à-vis the region changed beyond recognition?
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