"He [Ford] is our eyes and ears on the ground, particularly in the
absence of all of you," another administration official said. "So he's
providing information and he's providing real-time analysis of what the
regime is saying and doing and where the differences are between those two."
Over the last three months, Obama has rarely addressed the revolt in
Syria, and has rather focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president,
who ordered two sets of sanctions on Syrian leaders, has not made more than
a passing reference to Assad's bloody crackdown since May 19, Middle East Newsline reported.
Under repeated questions from journalists, the officials acknowledged
that the United States was moving far slower against Assad than against
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. They
attributed the pace to difficulties in building an international coalition
against the regime in Damascus.
"I agree that in a perfect world we should be moving faster, that this
is going slowly," the first official said. "But what we're doing is, again,
we're actively building a broad-based approach with our partners
bilaterally, multilaterally, regionally, internationally in order to make
sure that we're all moving ahead in a sensible way that backs the Syrian
The officials said Ford has been monitoring the
revolt in Syria and meeting opposition leaders as the administration
considers sanctions on Syria's energy sector. Several U.S. companies
continue to explore and develop crude oil and natural gas resources in
The administration of President Barack Obama has insisted that Assad
still has time to reform Syria and would not have to leave office despite the pressure building against his regime.
"Time is running out for Assad," a senior administration official said.