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Josh Rogin

Obama's Next Syria Envoy Must Fight for Relevance

His job will be to win a war his bosses don't want to fight.
If Jerusalem was too easy for Michael Ratney....

If Jerusalem was too easy for Michael Ratney....

Photographer: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

As the Obama administration increases the U.S. commitment to fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, the strategy in Syria is flailing - just as a new special envoy for Syria is set to be appointed. He will struggle to exert enough influence to fix U.S. Syria policy, which is subservient to the White House’s priorities on Iraq and Iran.

President Barack Obama intends to appoint Michael Ratney, the consul general to Jerusalem, to succeed Daniel Rubenstein as the State Department’s go-to official for dealing with the Syrian crisis and interacting with the Syrian opposition, three administration officials told me. The decision is not final until the White House announces it, but that announcement is expected soon. Rubenstein, who served just over one year in a mostly unremarkable stint as Syria envoy, will become ambassador to Tunisia. Rubenstein was Jerusalem consul general before Ratney.