Frederic Hof is going to be Barack Obama’s man in Damascus. He fills a role that’s been left empty since 2005.
George Bush withdrew his ambassador two days after Rafiq Al-Hariri was killed, blaming Syria for the attack.
Barack Obama, and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have both emphasised their committment to put Syria at the centre of efforts to find a regional peace.
Hof is a seasoned expert in Lebanon-Syria-Palestine. He speaks Arabic, and has worked in the region for 30 years. In the 1980s he investigated the US marines bombing in Beirut. He was a mediator between Jordan and Israel on water issues in the 1990s.