The Foreign Service Journal, May 2021

46 MAY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL I n June 2020, I wrapped up two and a half years of service as the senior U.S. diplomat on the ground in northeast- ern Syria. It was a terribly frustrating but also enriching experience. Frustrating, and saddening, because the Syr- ian conflict, with its bloodshed, destruction and human suffering, seemed immune to all our efforts to find a diplomatic solution. Enriching because, among other reasons, I worked closely with the leadership of a talented local partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the difficult but ultimately successful fight the U.S.-led coalition waged against ISIS. I was present in March 2019 at the Omar Oil Compound in Deir al-Zour when they declared the liberation of northeastern Syria from ISIS For this FSO, Dante’s imagery in The Inferno seemed to capture the depth of suffering and destruction he saw. BY WI L L I AM ROEBUCK William Roebuck retired from the Foreign Service in November 2020. During a 28-year diplomatic career, he served as U.S. ambassador to Bahrain and com- pleted postings in Jerusalem, Baghdad and Tripoli; he also did political reporting in Gaza while posted in Tel Aviv. Ambassador Roebuck received the State Department Award for Heroism for his work in Syria. FEATURE Raqqa’s Inferno A Diplomat Reads Dante in Syria ALLPHOTOS–WILLIAMROEBUCK