In 1979, John Limbert was a new FSO posted to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian students. He was one of the fifty-two U.S. personnel who spent 444 days as Iran hostages from 1979-81. Later in his career, he was appointed Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He currently serves as Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. In yesterday’s issue of the Guardian, Ambassador Limbert writes that “there is a remarkable parallel between denunciations of Binyamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress and of a possible nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Those who condemn the former haven’t heard it; and those who condemn the latter haven’t seen it.” Excerpt:
[H]is words will not matter. What will matter is the obvious symbolism of his presence in a partisan and political event. Netanyahu will denounce Iran and its evil ways, but behind these denunciations his real target lies elsewhere. The speech will be a divisive event, in which, for his own reasons, Netanyahu has entered the American political arena and thrown in his lot with President Obama’s opponents. In this political mêlée, Iran becomes the means to weaken him.
Such a bizarre piece of diplomacy may play well with the far right in the United States and with Netanyahu’s own constituency in the coming Israeli elections. In the process he does not seem to care how many dishes he breaks or how much he damages Israel’s relations with the president of its most important ally.
If Netanyahu dislikes and distrusts the Islamic Republic, fair enough. In his negative views he has lots of company. But does Iran’s being difficult mean that there should be no deal to limit its nuclear program? Shouldn’t the P5+1 negotiate the best possible, but perhaps imperfect, agreement? In 1981, the Iranians and Americans reached a deal that brought me and 51 of my embassy colleagues home after 14 months’ captivity in Iran. The deal stuck, although the United States neither liked the Iranians, nor trusted them. At times it is necessary to talk to unattractive regimes and to negotiate agreements that deliver outcomes less than ideal. Rejecting a nuclear deal with Iran – before such a deal has been reached – will do nothing to bring about a better outcome.
We have not seen the official announcement from the WH yet, but on February 24, Secretary Kerry released the following statement on the nomination of FSO Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991:
President Obama, today, nominated Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia. It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner. If confirmed, the Ambassador will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia, currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the .
Traditional Hyderabadi marfa drum beaters await the arrival of Consul General Katherine Dhanani at the Pista House, Charminar. (Photo by USCG Hyderabad)
According to her online bio, Ms. Dhanani succeeded Cornelis M. Keur as U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad and assumed charge of post in September 2010. She has been a foreign service officer since 1990 and has previously served at US embassies in Georgetown, Guyana, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lusaka,Zambia and Libreville,Gabon. She was also deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Harare. She is a trained economist from the Kenyon College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught economics at the Grinnel College before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. During her tenure in Hyderabad, she blogged at A Diplomat in the Deccan.
Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia. […] While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora. In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.
The current Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, James C. Swan previously served as the United States Special Representative for Somalia from August 2011 to July 2013, leading U.S. diplomatic, security, and stabilization initiatives that culminated in U.S. recognition of a Somali government for the first time in more than two decades. In August 2013, James P. McAnulty was appointed his successor as Special Representative for Somalia.
The last Senate-confirmed ambassador to Somalia according to history.state.gov was James Keough Bishop (1938-) who was appointed on June 27, 1990. The appointment was terminated when the Embassy closed on January 5, 1991.
Nominations that are pending when the Senate adjourns or recesses for more than 30 days are returned to the President unless the Senate, by unanimous consent, waives the rule requiring their return (Senate Rule XXXI, clause 6). If a nomination is returned, and the President still desires Senate consideration, he must submit a new nomination to the Senate. On November 17, the following Executive Nominations were returned to the President, pursuant to Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate:
Nominees for Ambassadors
PN2098 Sweden | Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.
PN2073 South Sudan | Mary Catherine Phee, of Illinois, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of South Sudan.
PN2072 Mali | Paul A. Folmsbee, of Oklahoma, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mali.
PN1993 Latvia | Nancy Bikoff Pettit, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Latvia.
PN2070 Mexico | Maria Echaveste, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Mexican States.
PN1990 Kyrgyz Republic | Sheila Gwaltney, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kyrgyz Republic.
PN1935 Guyana | Perry L. Holloway, of South Carolina, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
PN1869 Finland | Charles C. Adams, Jr., of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Finland.
PN1843 Costa Rica | Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Costa Rica.
PN1416 The Bahamas | Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
PN1143 Trinidad and Tobago | John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
PN1124 Norway | George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.
Nominees for International Organizations
PN2027 UNITED NATIONS | Leslie Berger Kiernan, of Maryland, as an Alternate Representative of the United States of America, to the Sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN2026 UNITED NATIONS | Carol Leslie Hamilton, of California, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN2023 UNITED NATIONS | Ronald H. Johnson, of Wisconsin, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN2022 UNITED NATIONS | Benjamin L. Cardin, of Maryland, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN1975 DEPARTMENT OF STATE | Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.
Nominees for the State Department
PN2071 STATE/L | Brian James Egan, of Maryland, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State.
PN2018 STATE/CA | Michele Thoren Bond, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Consular Affairs).
PN1991 STATE/OES | Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
PN1648 STATE/DS | Gentry O. Smith, of North Carolina, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service.
On November 12, the WH also officially withdrew the following nomination:
PN1094 USIAD/OIG | Michael G. Carroll, of New York, to be Inspector General, United States Agency for International Development. Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.
The following nominees for the State Department were confirmed on December 16, 2014:
PN1840 * Macedonia Jess Lippincott Baily, of Ohio, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Macedonia.
PN1842 * Azerbaijan Robert Francis Cekuta, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
PN1847 * Montenegro Margaret Ann Uyehara, of Ohio, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Montenegro.
PN1852 * Armenia Richard M. Mills, Jr., of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Armenia.
PN1099 * State Department (Verification and Compliance). Frank A. Rose, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance).
The U.S. Senate also confirmed the nominations of Paige Eve Alexander, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of USAID, and Jonathan Nicholas Stivers, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Administrator of USAID. It also confirmed Karen Kornbluh, of New York, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for a term expiring August 13, 2016.
On December 15, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominees:
PN1377-3 FOREIGN SERVICE| Nomination for Sharon Lee Cromer, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
PN1567 FOREIGN SERVICE| Nominations beginning Michael A. Lally, and ending John E. Simmons, which 4 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 10, 2014.
PN1568 FOREIGN SERVICE| Nominations beginning Andrew J. Billard, and ending Brenda Vanhorn, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 10, 2014.
PN1569 FOREIGN SERVICE| Nominations beginning Melinda Masonis, and ending Jeffrey R. Zihlman, which 456 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record| on April 10, 2014.
PN2137 FOREIGN SERVICE| Nomination for James D. Lindley, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 13, 2014.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state on December 16 just before Congress adjourned. In early December, Newsweek reported that Senator John McCain was blocking the nomination, citing sharp disagreement with the nominee’s past statements on Iraq.
Via HuffPo: Blinken, whose nomination was nearly derailed by Republican opponents, skates into the office on a 55-38 vote as Democrats pushed dozens of President Barack Obama’s nominations through the upper chamber before losing their majority in the next Congress. The approval was thanks to Sen. Ted Cruz‘s (R-Texas) staunch opposition to the government spending bill, which kept senators in Washington for an extra few days before adjourning.
On November 7, President Obama released a statement on his nomination of Mr. Blinken:
I’m proud to nominate Antony Blinken to be our next Deputy Secretary of State. I’ve known and worked closely with Tony for the past decade, starting when I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he was its Staff Director. For the past six years, I’ve relied on Tony in the White House, where I’ve come to have extraordinary respect for his knowledge, judgment, and inclusive approach to developing and implementing our foreign policy. As everyone who knows and works with Tony can attest, he is a person of enormous integrity, with a tireless work ethic and deep love of country. He is exactly the type of person who we want to represent the United States of America overseas. If confirmed by the Senate, I know he will continue to do a great job on behalf of my Administration, Secretary Kerry and the American people.
The WH also released the following brief bio:
Antony Blinken is Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, a position he has held since 2013. From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Blinken was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor in the Office of the Vice President. Previously, he was Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008. From 2001 to 2002, he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In the Clinton Administration, he served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Speechwriting. He also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs at the Department of State. Mr. Blinken received a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.
Here is additional biographic details when he was appointed a key member of the Obama National Security Team after the 2008 presidential elections:
Antony “Tony” Blinken was appointed Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2002. From 1994 to 2001, Mr. Blinken served on the National Security Council staff at The White House. He was Senior Director for European Affairs (1999-2001) and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and NSC Senior Director for Speechwriting (1994-1998). He also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1993 – 1994), and was a lawyer in New York and Paris. Mr. Blinken was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2001 to 2002) and a Senior Foreign Policy adviser to the Obama-Biden presidential campaign. He has been a reporter for The New Republic magazine and has written about foreign policy for numerous publications, including The New York Times and Foreign Affairs Magazine. He is the author Ally Verses Ally: America, Europe and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis (1987). Mr. Blinken is a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School.
I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961. Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.
According to BuzzFeed, two Republican senators have already threatened to block congressional funding for a future U.S. Embassy in Cuba and an ambassadorial nomination after the Obama administration announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba.
“I anticipate we’re going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador nominated and how you’ll get an embassy funded,” Rubio, an ardent opponent of lifting the Cuban embargo, said.
The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) is in the former United States Embassy building that was built by Harrison Abramovitz architects and opened in 1953. The 6-story building was reopened in 1977, renovations were completed in 1997.
The functions of USINT are similar to those of any U.S. government presence abroad: Consular Services, a Political and Economic Section, a Public Diplomacy Program, and Refugee Processing unique to Cuba.
The objectives of USINT in Cuba are for rule of law, individual human rights and open economic and communication systems.
Bilateral relations are based upon the Migration Accords designed to promote safe, legal and orderly migration, the Interests Section Agreement, and efforts to reduce global threats from crime and narcotics.
Our de facto embassy has a staff of 51 Americans. Its total funding excluding salaries for FY2013 was $13,119,451, appropriated by Congress, of course. Our U.S. Congress.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Prior to taking up this position in August 2014, Ambassador DeLaurentis served for three years as the Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
There’s more via State/OIG’s 2014 inspection report of USINT Havana:
USINT is located in a U.S. Government-owned building constructed in 1951 as a chancery and substantially renovated in the early 1990s. The land was first leased from the Cuban Government in 1949 for a 90-year term with a 90-year extension. In exchange, the U.S. Government leased three residences (in Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago) to the Cuban Government, also for 90 years.
The Department constructed and first occupied the U.S. Government-owned COM residence in 1942. The original eagle from the monument to the victims of the battleship Maine, which was toppled following the Bay of Pigs invasion, adorns the grounds. Representational, family, and guest spaces are well appointed. The residence is well maintained and furnished [….]
Short-term-leased properties in Havana include an annex, which houses Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, And Migration, a warehouse, the DCM residence, a two-house Marine detachment compound, and residential housing for all other USINT American staff. These properties are all covered under an umbrella lease agreement with PALCO.
A special note, dedicated to our elected representatives who made lots of noise about security and protecting our diplomats overseas in the aftermath of Benghazi — the State Department Inspector General recommended that the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations “implement a comprehensive plan to address security, structural, fire safety, and space planning deficiencies” at the U.S. Interests Section Havana…”
We’d like to know that these congressional concerns extend to our diplomats who have been serving in Havana for years under our de facto embassy.
Given the many challenges facing our country these days, we don’t think the White House appreciates this new kind of headache. I mean, who would? But we also suspect that it would not withdraw the nomination on its own. Once it nominated Mr. Tsunis, the WH is bound to stand by its nominee. The only way we think the WH would withdraw this nomination is if Mr. Tsunis , himself, withdraws his name from consideration. That might be the most prudent action for Mr. Tsunis to do here. That would give President Obama a fresh start.
It took a while but today, it finally happened.
“It is over,” Tsunis said in a telephone interview with Newsday’s Tom Brune. He did not withdraw his nomination, the Senate clock simply ran out, but he did say he would decline to be nominated again for the 114th Congress. President Obama now has an opportunity to pick a new nominee as ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway.The White House Office of Personnel needs to find a new nominee, and hopefully that will happen fairly quickly and with more thought put into it.
A Senate aide confirmed Tsunis was out. Senate Democrats had attempted to wrap many unconfirmed nominees into a package for approval, Tsunis said, but the final measure left out his nomination.
Tsunis said he was grateful to be considered and went through a “tremendous life-learning experience.”
Tsunis said he would decline to be nominated again in the next Congress.
“I don’t think anybody would think it’s a good idea,” he said. “Norway has been without an ambassador for two years and the overarching thing should be: Let’s get them a first-rate ambassador.”
Among the three most controversial nominees this cycle, two had already been confirmed. The one difference with the Tsunis nomination is that unlike the Mamet and Bell nominations, there were people who active lobbied Congress not to confirm this nomination. It turned out that the Norwegian-Americans in Minnesota and the Dakotas were pretty hard headed once they got their mind on one thing. And they nagged their elected representatives. Once the entire congressional delegations of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota went on the record to oppose this nomination,this was on life support.
The most recent ambassador to Norway, Barry White departed post in the fall of 2013. We should note for the record that we haven’t had a career ambassador appointed as US Ambassador to Oslo since President Lyndon Johnson appointed Margaret Joy Tibbetts, a career FSO sent there in 1964 and served until 1969.
Former FSO, James Gibney writes editorials on international affairs for Bloomberg View. He was previously features editor at the Atlantic, deputy editor at the New York Times op-ed page and executive editor at Foreign Policy magazine. He was a speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and President Bill Clinton. His latest below on State Department appointments:
The confirmation last week of two spectacularly unqualified political nominees to head U.S. embassies in two budding autocracies (Hungary and Argentina) prompted some predictable tut-tutting.
Sadly, President Barack Obama’s approach to State Department appointments has deeper problems than garden-variety patronage. Political hirelings have been insinuated much lower into the department’s bureaucracy. And after trumpeting tough ethics rules, the administration has carved out loopholes for hiring former lobbyists and “special government employees” who can earn outside income while in their official posts. Never mind the impact this breach of boundaries has on Foreign Service officers’ dreams of future policy greatness. It’s a recipe for flawed, and potentially corrupt, policy making.
Of course, even the uber-diplomatic George H. W. Bush had his undiplomatic appointments. My favorite: Peter Secchia, a Michigan building magnate who, before arriving to take up his post in Rome, said, “I saw the new Italian Navy. Its boats have glass bottoms so they can see the old Italian Navy.”
On December 9, the U.S. Senate slowly winding its business in town, confirmed the ambassadorial nominees for Afghanistan and India. There’s still a long list of nominees awaiting confirmation, but the candle is growing short here; we don’t think many more will make it through this Congress. But here are the nominees who made it through the confirmation obstacle course on December 9:
The Senate confirmed Peter McKinley to be Ambassador to Afghanistan by a voice vote.
Deputy Ambassador Michael McKinley traveled to Bagram Airfield today to help administer the Oath of Citizenship to 11 Service Members in the United States Armed Forces. (Via US Embassy Kabul/FB)
Ambassador McKinley is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. A two-time Ambassador and four-time Deputy Chief of Mission, he is known for his gifted leadership and management abilities. A consensus builder with demonstrated interpersonal skills, broad expertise in high-level foreign policy negotiations and detailed knowledge of the region, he will bring essential skills to the task of furthering bilateral relations with the Government of Afghanistan, a nation of unsurpassed foreign policy importance to the United States Government in a critical region of the world.
Previously, Mr. McKinley served in the Department of State as Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia (2010-2013), Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru (2007-2010), Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Mission to the European Union, Brussels, Belgium (2004-2007), Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Washington, D.C. (2001-2004), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium (2000-2001), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda (1997-2000), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Maputo, Mozambique (1994-1997), Political Officer, U.S. Embassy London, United Kingdom (1990-1994), Special Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Washington, D.C. (1989-1990), Political Officer, Office of Southern African Affairs, Washington, D.C. (1987-1989), Political Officer, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Washington, D.C. (1985-1987) and Consular and General Services Officer, U.S. Embassy La Paz, Bolivia (1983-1985).
Mr. McKinley earned a MPhil and DPhil from Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom (1975-1982), and a B.A. from Southampton University, South Hampton, United Kingdom (1971-1975). He is the recipient of numerous awards from the Department of State, including a Presidential Meritorious Service Award (2011), 12 Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, six Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor Awards. He speaks Spanish, Portuguese and French. via state.gov-McKinley, Michael P. – Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – September 2014
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The Senate confirmed Richard Verma to be Ambassador to India by a voice vote.
Richard Rahul Verma serves as Senior Counselor to the global law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, as well as to the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, DC. His practice focuses on international law and regulatory issues, with a specialization in Asia and emerging markets. Mr. Verma also serves as a Senior National Security Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he directs their “India 2020” initiative. Known as a talented leader and manager, he is recognized for his many years of experience working on high-level policy in the federal government, in the private sector and with non-governmental organizations, especially on matters relating to the affairs of South Asia and India, including political-military relations. His knowledge and ability to set the agenda will enable him to strengthen bilateral relations with India, a pivotal nation of critical global importance to the U.S.
Previously, in Washington, D.C., he served as Assistant Secretary of State (Legislative Affairs), Department of State (2009-2011), Partner, Steptoe and Johnson LLP (2007-2009), Senior National Security Advisor, Office of the Senate Majority Leader (2006-2007), Senior National Security Advisor, Office of the Senate Minority Leader (2004-2006), Senior Counsel, Office of the Senate Democratic Whip (2003-2004), Foreign Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Reid (2002-2003) and Associate, Steptoe and Johnson (1998-2002). Mr. Verma served on active duty as a First Lieutenant and Captain in the U.S. Air Force at Holloman, Air Force Base, New Mexico and Fort Meade, Maryland (1994-1998). He was also Field Representative, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Bucharest, Romania (1993-1994) and Staff Assistant, Congressman John P. Murtha (1991-1992).
Mr. Verma earned a B.S. at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1990, a J.D., cum laude, at American University in 1993 and a LL.M, with distinction, at Georgetown University Law Center in 1998. He is the recipient of a Distinguished Service Medal from the Department of State, the International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations and a Meritorious Service Medal, a Commendation Medal and a National Defense Service Medal from the U.S. Air Force. via state.gov-Verma, Richard R. – Republic of India – September 2014
It’s official. Last week, Secretary Kerry appointed Amos Hochstein as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. Here is his state.gov bio:
Amos J Hochstein serves as the Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs leading the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) at the U.S. Department of State. He oversees U.S. foreign policy engagement in the critical intersection of energy and national security. In this role, he advises the Secretary on global energy security and diplomacy, as well as promotes U.S. interests to ensure energy resources are used to increase economic opportunity, stability and prosperity around the world. Special Envoy Hochstein also advises the Secretary on U.S. strategy to advance global integration of renewable and clean energy sources. Prior to this role, Mr. Hochstein served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and in that capacity oversaw the Office of Middle East and Asia and the Office of Europe, the Western Hemisphere and Africa where he lead the bureau’s energy diplomacy efforts.
Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Hochstein spent more than 15 years advising U.S. elected officials, candidates for public office and thought leaders on domestic and global energy policy initiatives. He began his career in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill where he served in a variety of senior level positions, ultimately serving as the Senior Policy Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mr. Hochstein first served as the principal Democratic staff person on the Economic Policy, Trade and Environment Subcommittee where he oversaw work authorizing Ex-Im Bank, OPIC and USTDA, as well as drafting legislation on export controls and trade-related multilateral organizations and regimes.
Mr. Hochstein served as Policy Director to Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Prior to his work with Sen. Dodd, he worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to Senator (then Governor) Mark Warner (D-VA).
Harnessing his experience in the policy, campaign and public sector, Mr. Hochstein moved to the private sector as Executive Vice President of International Operations at Cassidy & Associates. Throughout his career, he has been a counselor for both domestic and international oil and gas companies, as well as companies focusing on renewable energy. In this capacity, he assisted corporations in assessing potential new markets and the development of alternative sources of power and best strategies to bring them to market.
You may now follow (or not) Mr. Hochstein on Twitter at @amoshochstein but he says “tweets are my own.” Now, where’s the fun in that?
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Mr. Hochstein succeeds Ambassador Carlos Pascual who was appointed Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs after a stint as ambassador to Mexico. The Bureau of Energy Affairs was subsequently created in November 2011. We have posted here about Ambassador Pascual when he became the first public casualty of WikiLeaks in March 2011. Two days after that, his resignation was announced. On May 2011, Ambassador Pascual was appointed as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. He was nominated the first Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Energy Affairs in February 2012. The Senate did not act on the nomination and this past summer, he resigned from his State Department post to join Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
According to the state.gov, the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) is “working to ensure that all our diplomatic relationships advance our interests in having access to secure, reliable, and ever-cleaner sources of energy.” It’s three core objectives includes energy diplomacy, energy transformation, and energy transparency and access.
Mr. Amos has been appointed to a special envoy position which requires no confirmation. He heads State’s ENR office supported by Amb. Mary Warlick as his Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Robin Dunnigan as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and Robert F. Ichord, Jr., Ph.D. as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation.
Wait — there’s more? Via Newsweek back in 2010, with special mention for the new special envoy, Mr. Hochstein who then oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account:
The rise in foreign lobbying may have also compromised the policymaking of current and future U.S. government officials. With little oversight, lobbyists can represent the most repressive regimes and then turn around and work in government. According to John Newhouse, author of a forthcoming book on the influence of foreign lobbies on American policies, one of John McCain’s senior foreign-policy advisers during his 2008 campaign, Randy Scheunemann, simultaneously worked for McCain and as a paid adviser to the government of Georgia, which had been accused of human-rights violations. Despite McCain’s reputation as a leading champion of human rights, Scheunemann largely escaped questions about whether his lobbying might have affected his foreign-policy advice to the powerful senator. Similarly, while at Cassidy & Associates, lobbyist Amos Hochstein oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account, which required him to argue the merits of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Still, after leaving Cassidy, Hochstein landed a prominent job on the (ill-fated) 2008 presidential campaign of Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, a politician also known for his longstanding human-rights advocacy. Now Hochstein says he helped “move the ball forward on human rights” in the country.
Lobbying can turn down the pressure on authoritarian regimes. After years of intense lobbying, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang managed to transform his image in Washington from a venal autocrat into a solid American ally and buddy of U.S. business. In 2006 he strode out of a meeting at Foggy Bottom with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who declared him “a good friend.”
Look, one of our readers also sent us a link to Sunlight Foundation’s Foreign Influence Explorer for Equatorial Guinea. If you have never seen it, click here for folks you may or may not know.
Oh, dear. May we please retract our congratulations now?