McClatchy quotes VP and Rafik Hariri Center Director Francis Ricciardone on conflicting interests in Syria between the United States and Turkey:
“We said, ‘Yes, sure, OK, but a number of the groups that you’re working with, which you consider open to persuasion, we consider beyond the pale. And we will not work with them, and we’d rather you not work with them and we think they need to be blocked from transiting your borders,’ ” Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey until last month, recalled Thursday in a media call arranged by the Atlantic Council foreign policy institute, where he’s now the director of the Middle East program.
“We ultimately had no choice but to agree to disagree,” Ricciardone said.
U.S. officials haven’t publicly acknowledged previously knowing that Turkey was providing assistance to Nusra, which the State Department designated a foreign terrorist organization in December 2012. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Now the schism with Turkey, never resolved, is resurfacing in a more public way with President Barack Obama’s pledge to build a “moderate” Syrian rebel force as he wades deeper into the Middle East’s turmoil. When the United States and Muslim partners such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia clash over the very definition of “moderate,” who gets to decide the makeup of a coalition-backed rebel force? And no matter what it’s called, is Obama ready to accept the risk of backing a movement that’s widely viewed as too small, too weak and too untrustworthy to win?
“These are serious questions that are not yet resolved,” Ricciardone said. And, he added, “they might not be resolvable.”