A decorated, retired diplomat who was U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2011 until earlier this year, will discuss ongoing conflicts in Syria and the Middle East at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, in the Buchanan Alumni House at the University of Maine.
Robert S. Ford, who served 30 years in the U.S. Department of State and Peace Corps, will address how domestic politics and U.S. strategy intersect in Syria in a free talk titled “Syria and Washington Politics — Hard to Agree.”
In 2011, after Syria’s civil war erupted, he traveled to Hama in a display of solidarity with Syrians protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad. Ford then worked with Syrian opposition forces and was instrumental in bringing them to the Geneva peace talks. He served three times in Iraq between 2003 and 2010, including as the ambassador’s senior political adviser during elections for the new Iraqi government. From 2008 to 2010, as deputy ambassador in Iraq, he led a team that developed logistical and security plans that the Obama administration utilized to establish diplomatic posts in Iraq. Ford also served in Cameroon during a civil war, as well as in Egypt and Turkey. Ford, who speaks Arabic and French, began his career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
His efforts have been recognized and lauded; he has received the Presidential Honor Award and the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2012, he was presented a Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston for “courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.”
The resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. also teaches at Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife, Alison Barkley, who is a Foreign Service officer.
The School of Policy & International Affairs (SPIA) is sponsoring Ford’s talk at UMaine.