Category Archives: UN

Confirmations: Nichols, Wells, Nix-Hines, Harper, La Lime, Moreno

– Domani Spero

The Senate confirmations of President Obama’s nominees continue at a turtle’s pace.  Here are the following State Department nominees who made it through the confirmation process so far. The nominees for non-embassy positions do not appear to have their Certificate of Demonstrated Competence per Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4 posted online. 

June 19, 2014

Brian A. Nichols, of Rhode Island, 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 Peru.

- Certificate via State/FOIA (pdf)

June 16, 2014

Alice G. Wells, of Washington, 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 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

-Wells, Alice G – Kingdom of Jordan – 04-2014

June 12, 2014

Crystal Nix-Hines, of California, for the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

June 3, 2013

Keith M. Harper, of Maryland, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Representative to the UN Human Rights Council.

May 15, 2014

Helen Meagher La Lime, of the District of Columbia, 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 Angola.

- Certificate via State/FOIA (pdf)

May 14, 2014

Carlos Roberto Moreno, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belize.

- Certificate via State/FOIA (pdf)

 

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Senate Confirmations: Suzan G. LeVine, Peter A. Selfridge, Pamela K. Hamamoto

– Domani Spero

The Senate confirmations of the Obama nominees continue to trickle down.   Ambassador LeVine’s nomination was announced on January 30, 2014 and she was confirmed by the full Senate on May 1st. Ambassador Selfridge who moved from the WH to the State Department was nominated in December 2013.  Ambassador Hamamoto was nominated in August 1, 2013 and had waited over nine months for her Senate confirmation.

 

  • May 01, 2014 | Suzan G. LeVine, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary  of the United States of America to the Swiss Confederation, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

 

  • May 05, 2014 | Peter A. Selfridge, of Minnesota, to be Chief of Protocol, and to have the rank of  Ambassador during his tenure of service.

 

  • May 08, 2014 | Pamela K. Hamamoto, of Hawaii, to be Representative of the United States of  America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador.

 

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Today at the SFRC: Crocker (IO), Lawson (ICAO), Wood (USCD)

– Domani Spero

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding its confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominees for  the International Organization AffairsInternational Civil Aviation Organization and the Conference on Disarmament .

Presiding: Senator Markey
Date: Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Time: 03:00 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast:

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live or see the nominees’ prepared statements.

Nominees:

  • Ms. Bathsheba Nell Crocker
    of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

Bathsheba N. Crocker is the Principal Deputy Director in the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State (DOS), a position she has held since 2011.  Previously at DOS, she served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State from 2009 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2009, Ms. Crocker was a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for International Affairs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She was the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office from 2007 to 2008.  From 2005 to 2007, Ms. Crocker was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the UN Special Envoy at the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.  Ms. Crocker worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project as a Fellow and Co-Director from 2003 to 2005 and as an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2002 to 2003.  Ms. Crocker was an Attorney-Adviser for the Office of the Legal Advisor at DOS from 2001 to 2002 and from 1997 to 1999.  From 2000 to 2001, she was Deputy U.S. Special Representative for Southeast Europe Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy.  From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Crocker was Executive Assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor for the National Security Council at the White House.  She has served as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and American University.  Ms. Crocker received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. (Via)

  • Mr. Michael Anderson Lawson 
    of California, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization

Michael Anderson Lawson is the immediate past President of the Los Angeles World Airports’ Board of Airport Commissioners.  He has been a member of the Board of Airport Commissioners since 2005 and held the position of President of the Commission since 2011.  From 1980 to 2011, he practiced law at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP where he served as partner since 1995.  From 1978 to 1980, he was a staff attorney at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.  Mr. Lawson is a member of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College, Loyola Marymount University, The Advancement Project, the Music Center at the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, the California State Teachers Retirement System Board, and the Community Redevelopment Agency Oversight Board for the City of Los Angeles.  Mr. Lawson received a B.A. from Loyola University in Los Angeles and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. (Via)

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If True That Foreign Diplomats in the U.S. Are “Eligible” for Medicaid — That’s Absolutely Bonkers!

– Domani Spero

In early December, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced charges against 49 current or former Russian diplomats or spouses of diplomats employed at the Russian Mission in the United States for participating in a widespread fraud scheme from 2004 to August 2013 to illegally obtain nearly
$1.5 million dollars in Medicaid benefits. (See 49 Russian Diplomats/Spouses Charged With Picking Uncle Sam’s Pocket in Medicaid Scam).

On December 6, during the Daily Press Briefing, the State Department deputy spokesperson, Marie Harf said this:

“We routinely inform all foreign missions in the U.S. – most recently we did this in November – that we expect their personnel to maintain health insurance coverage. So under U.S. law, nonimmigrants, which diplomats fall under in this case, who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for and receive federally funded medical care.”

Whaaat?!

Lest we get all excited, this is the same spokesperson, of course, who could not say what appropriate consular assistance is provided when an American citizen dies abroad.  Or who says from the podium that “It’s not for any State Department official to sign off on any arrests, right, even regarding a foreign diplomat.”  Whoops!  (We heard that the Special Agents of the Diplomatic Security Service toppled over in their swivel chairs when the clip aired on YouTube).

Then on December 14, UPI reported that “Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “some of the diplomats accused of glomming on to the U.S. healthcare system were actually entitled to do so.”

Entitled to do so?  As in  a legal right or a just claim to receive it?

On December 16, Interfax also reported that Moscow is “already taking disciplinary measures in relation to the Russian diplomats accused in the U.S. of unlawfully receiving Medicaid benefits to cover the pregnancy and childbirth costs.”

The report quotes Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov saying, “This is a disciplinary offence, because, by being insincere in filing applications and citing inaccurate figures to receive some benefits, they violated the host country’s norms and rules, which a diplomat has no right to do. I’d like to stress once again: they are being subjected and will be subjected to disciplinary action.”  Now, the same report repeats this notion that some of the Russian diplomats were “entitled” to apply for such assistance due to their low income:

“We have looked into this. First, the allegation that none of them was entitled to this because they are foreigners is wrong. There are different laws in various states of the U.S. that allow for using Medicaid benefits by foreigners. Second, it is not quite true that the Russian diplomats’ incomes did not make them eligible for receiving such payments through Medicaid,” he said.

“We have studied the files of the said colleagues, and it turned out that at least some of them had salaries that entitled them to apply for such assistance from the U.S. fund at that moment. 

How bonkers is that?  That American taxpayers are subsidizing the health care cost of foreign diplomats in the United States.  Which part of this makes sense? Medicaid is a federally funded program designed to assist low-income families afford health care. And in this case, if the allegations are true, Russian diplomats took public assistance that would have been  helpful to low income Americans.

The big question now is — can we also call this foreign aid?

Screen Shot 2013-12-26

Extracted from Medicaid Renewal Form
(click image for larger view)

Now Congress wants to know Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is going on here. The SFRC is missing on this but U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently expressed “serious concern about foreign diplomats receiving, and reportedly defrauding, U.S. Government-funded benefits programs.” In his letter to Secretary Kerry, Chairman Royce requested a meeting plus written answers to the following questions:

1.      How will the Administration treat the 11 named defendants who, according to the U.S. Attorney, remain in the United States?  Will you ask the Russian government to waive their immunity so that they can be prosecuted?  If not, will the Department declare them persona non grata?

2.      How will the Administration treat the 38 named defendants who, according to the U.S. Attorney, no longer reside in the United States?  Will you request that they be extradited to stand trial?  If not, will the Department impose a U.S. visa ban on them?

3.      How will the Administration treat the unindicted co-conspirators at Russian diplomatic offices in the U.S. who allegedly advised and assisted the named defendants by supplying false documentation to New York officials in support of the fraudulent Medicaid claims?

4.      Will the Administration bill the Russian government for the Medicaid benefits its personnel fraudulently used?  If not, how will New York State’s Medicaid program be compensated for the loss?

5.      On December 5, 2013, Department of State Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We are still…reviewing the charges that were unsealed.”  How closely did the U.S. Attorney, Department of Justice, or Federal Bureau of Investigation cooperate with the Department of State during the investigation?  What steps did the U.S. Attorney take to coordinate with the Department of State before filing the complaint on November 18, 2013 or unsealing it on December 5, 2013?

This situation also raises a number of important questions about government programs that provide benefits to foreign diplomats.  I therefore would appreciate written answers to the following questions not later than January 13, 2014:

6.      On December 6, 2013, Department of State Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf stated that foreign diplomats in the United States “who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for and receive federally funded medical care.”  What are the medical programs for which foreign diplomats may be eligible?  What are the eligibility criteria?  Over the last 10 years, how many foreign diplomats have used these programs?  What was the total cost of the benefits provided?  Please provide these data sorted by foreign diplomatic mission or international organization.

7.      Are foreign diplomats eligible for government-funded benefits other than Medicaid (e.g., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)?  If so, which programs and what are the eligibility criteria?  Over the last 10 years, how many foreign diplomats have taken advantage of these programs?  What was the total cost of the benefits provided?  Please provide these data sorted by foreign diplomatic mission or international organization.

8.      Is the Administration aware of other cases where foreign diplomats fraudulently or inappropriately obtained Medicaid or other government-funded benefits?  Please provide the details of these cases, including the cost of any benefits that were inappropriately obtained.

9.      What is the Administration doing to ensure that foreign diplomats cannot inappropriately obtain government-funded benefits in the future?  Has the Administration asked relevant government benefit agencies to check their rolls for the names of foreign diplomats?  Does the Department regularly provide a list of foreign diplomats to relevant government benefit agencies?

And — if some foreign diplomats in the United States are “eligible” for Medicaid, how about some of their underpaid domestic workers, are they eligible, too?

Oh, for god’s sakes, maybe the State Department should just publish a handbook of freebies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snapshot: Top 10 State Department Assistance Recipients FY2013

Via USASpending.gov

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.41.51 AM

👀

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All Susan All the Time — Foggy Bottom’s Hallway Conversation?

The Daily Beast has a new addition to the Susan Rice, please let this be over story already. It’s titled, Susan Rice’s Personality ‘Disorder’.  Is it just us or are folks trying to outdo themselves with their Susan headlines?  We fear that the longer this runs, the more outrageous the headlines will be; so they’ll get our attention despite cruising towards some darn cliff, of course.  While it is not surprising that this is a hallway conversation over in Foggy Bottom, we’re still struck by this: (excerpt):

George W. Bush, had flouted longstanding tradition and downgraded the U.N. job to sub-cabinet status, but President Obama restored it to cabinet rank for Rice—thus insuring intense bureaucratic rivalry between the U.S. Mission in New York and the State Department in Washington, where various career foreign-service officers view the prospect of Rice’s takeover with suspicion.

“It’s the hallway conversation,” says a longtime State Department staffer. “It’s like, Jesus Christ, woe unto us all if this happens!”

Indeed, Rice has apparently left a trail of bruised egos and injured feelings in the nation’s capital. A veteran of the Clinton White House recalls a junior aide being summoned by Rice, then director of Africa policy at the National Security Council, and returning to his desk in tears.

 

It’s like, Jesus Christ, must be more than just bruised egos!

How come this makes us think of our favorite resident from the Foggiest Bottom?

domani spero sig

 

 

 

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GOP Connie Mack IV Wants Nonexistent UN Election Monitors to Observe “Banana Republics” Not U.S.

FP’s  Joshua Keating recently reported that Florida Rep. Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV aka: Connie Mack IV (Republican for the 14th district), currently running for a senate seat has called for the United Nations to be defunded and “kicked off U.S. soil.”

Dear United Nations, what did you do to this man?

Here is what Mack’s campaign sent out:

MIAMI – U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Connie Mack and Chairman of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee today strongly condemned reports that the United Nations is preparing to monitor the upcoming U.S. election – a function usually reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies.

Mack said:

“The very idea that the United Nations – the world body dedicated to diminishing America’s role in the world — would be allowed, if not encouraged, to install foreigners sympathetic to the likes of Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Putin to oversee our elections is nothing short of disgusting.“

For years the United Nations has aggressively worked against the best interests of our country and many of our allies. The UN’s actions and intentions toward the United States have been nothing short of reprehensible.

“Every American should be outraged by this news. The United States must defund the United Nations. The United Nations should be kicked off of American soil once and for all. And the American people should demand that the United Nations be stopped from ‘monitoring’ American elections. The only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.”

And – according to Tampa Bay Times, in case we miss it the first round, Mack’s campaign said that the U.N. monitoring “should be reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies.”

They’re talking about those countries where income inequality stretches a mile, where there is a slim or nonexistent middleclass and where plutocrats are a rare breed sitting atop a pyramid or something?

Hey, waaaait a minute — is Congressman Mack IV also ranting about those OSCE election monitors masquerading as United Nations observers?

Holy mother of goat and all her genius nephews! We’ve written previously about the fears of quantum elections in Texas over those OSCE election observers.  The senate candidate from Florida is certainly entitled to his own outrage but we’re horrified that he could not get the target of his outrage well, straight. OSCE man, OSCE not the UN.

:Sigh: — and this is the guy who wants to replace Bill Nelson as one of Florida’s senators to the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Connie Mack IV

While you’re digesting that thought, here are some photos of Senator McCain (who apparently was close with Mack’s father, former Congressman and Senator Connie Mack III and campaigned with Mack IV) observing the elections in Libya this year (right there in the polling station, too), writing: “I had the honor of observing Libya’s first free elections in 60 years – an extraordinary achievement for the Libyan people.”

(Click on image for more photos)

 

Holycrap! One of our senators observing real democracy in action! And just as good as in the movies!

It looks like Florida’s 14th district pride is behind in the polls, but if there is a Senator McGillicuddy IV in after Tuesday’s election, we’ll be in a lookout for his trips to bananaland.

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Oops! What’s this?  Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) was on MSNBC earlier today sharply criticizing the confusion and long lines at some Florida polling places and said:

“I don’t know what went on in Florida, but I do have to say that in this day and age, it’s inexcusable that in this country, we have anything like this going on.” she said. “I’ve led delegations around the world to watch voting and this is the kind of thing you expect in a third-world country, not in the United States of America.”

Noooooooo!

 

 

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Brett McGurk on Leadership and Fingertip Understanding of Iraq at the Senate

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) still has not put up the June 6 video and prepared testimony of Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee to take charge of the US Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world.  The SFRC Minority Report on Iraq says that “The administration must continue to assign its most skilled and experienced Arabist diplomats to ensure Iraq’s complex problems are considered in the broadest possible regional terms.”

But that’s only the Minority Report, and here we are.

Rumor has it that the embassy staffing will be slashed by 25% next fall, which would make it a 12,000 personnel diplomatic mission. Still the largest embassy in the world. When it will be slashed by 75% — that will be news.  Yes, do please think about it, we’ll wait here.

Map of Iraq, where Yahya ibn Umar conducted hi...

Map of Iraq (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The c-span video of the hearing is here. Don’t worry, the entire hearing for three ambassadorial nominees only lasted 1 hour and 27 minutes.  Only two Dems showed up for the show, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.  Only two GOP senators showed up for the show, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, and Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana.  So out of 19 members of the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee only four senators bothered to come in for the hearing.  We’re sure they’ll watch it on c-span like we did.

Anyway, last week, the State Department in response to inquiries about the purported McGurk emails has the following:

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the subject of the emails, they’re out there for everybody to see. I’m not going to get into emails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife. With regard to Mr. McGurk’s nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a Republican administration, a Democratic administration. He is, in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination.

Uniquely qualified? Waaaaait a minute – wasn’t that the same thing they told FSOs when they did the prime candidate exercise? Everyone who received the letter were told they were “uniquely qualified” to serve in Iraq. Even an FSO who has done all consular work and no Arabic, was “uniquely qualified” to be a political officer somewhere in Baghdad. FSO ended up going on a volunteer assignment (also known apparently as “voluntold”).  But did FSO’s boss who had political officer experience and Arabic language, who’s never been to Iraq, also get the “uniquely qualified” notice to go to Iraq?  We don’t know but boss reportedly got stuck at a desk in Foggy Bottom with a mighty glue.

Over at The Common Ills blog, a transcript of some of the Q&A during the confirmation hearing last Wednesday was posted.  Mr. McGurk’s comment is so full of shiny cliché that we thought it could stand some improvement if we turn it into freestyle rap, or could also work as a chant. The full text of this segment of Mr. McGurk’s comment is posted here.

*

Leadership of the embassy starts at home
At the embassy  
I’ve served with all five of our prior ambassadors to Iraq
I’ve seen every permentation of the embassy from the very beginning to where it is today  
I have learned and seen and been involved with what it takes to lead in Iraq

*

And to lead in Iraq
you need a really  fingertip understanding
of the operational tempo in Iraq
of what it’s like day-to-day
of knowing when something is a crisis
and when it’s not
managing morale and keeping people focused on the goals 

*

It also takes a team  
I’d be inheriting a team of extraordinary talent and depth at the embassy  
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with every member of the country team in Iraq  
That team encorporates  individuals from across the government
just a whole government approach
from Commerce to Transportation
to Treasury
to State
to the Defense Community
to the Intelligence Community

*

Key members of that team have volunteered to stay on for another year
And, if I’m confirmed, would serve with me  
As Ambassador, the buck would stop with me
I have a very clear vision —
in coordination with the President and the Secretary
– of where we need to take this mission 
But I would be working with a very strong team

He totally forgot the boss person at the regional bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) in his “clear vision–in coordination with….” part of the response.

If he is confirmed those who volunteered another year would serve with him, of course.  But they have probably volunteered before he was announced as a nominee, anyway.   If he is not confirmed, those who volunteered to serve another year, will serve with whoever the Senate confirms as the new embassy boss.

Mr. McGurk’s experience in Iraq includes serving “all five of our prior ambassadors to Iraq,” but does not include Arabic language, or experience in managing a a budget, especially that in the billions of dollars; does not include managing dozens, or hundreds of employees (even if Baghdad is “rightsized” to 12,000, that’s a long jump from managing a few people to thousands of personnel) in what is still a dangerous zone.  And he was apparently our negotiator with Iraq on retaining a residual U.S. force there, which did not happen -  so ….

Frankly, we do not know what “uniquely qualified” even means anymore or if that will be enough, whatever that is, to keep Mr. McGurk in this embassy slot.  He is a political appointee, so presumably he is a White House pick, not a State Department pick.  We’ve heard about the official support to this nomination from the State Department but have not heard anything from the WH.   More from The Cable here today, with additional doubts and questions expressed.  And fallout at the Wall Street Journal with the resignation of Ms. Chon.

In related news, somebody opened an account in Tumblr under Brett McGurk’s name –  see http://brettmcgurk.tumblr.com/ – on May 4, 2012. Sorry, no interesting notes there but one nice photo with President Bush, Ambassador Crocker and General Petreaus. Part of the description does say: “Brett McGurk possesses a wealth of knowledge and insight regarding U.S. policy in Iraq with high-level posts spanning nearly a decade between both Baghdad and Washington.”  

Okay then.  The nomination has not been scheduled for a vote in the SFRC’s website but reportedly will come up for a vote sometime next week. 

In another related news, the senior diplomat who oversaw US policy over that region in turmoil, who speaks Arabic and had actually managed more than a handful of people at an embassy and a regional bureau has finally landed at the United Nations.  On June 11, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Jeffrey D. Feltman of the United States as the top United Nations official dealing with political issues, as part of an ongoing series of changes to his senior management team initiated at the start of his second term.  The announcement says that “Mr. Feltman will replace B. Lynn Pascoe, also a US national, as the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, overseeing a department that plays a central role in UN efforts to prevent and resolve deadly conflict around the world.”

Domani Spero

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Filed under Ambassadors, Ambassadorships, Congress, Iraq, Leadership and Management, Leaks|Controversies, Nominations, Quotes, SFRC, UN, US Embassy Baghdad

Say Goodbye to NEA Bureau Boss, Jeffrey Feltman

On May 22, 2012, the State Department spokesman confirmed that “Assistant Secretary Feltman has advised Secretary Clinton that he would – that he plans to retire at the end of the month and that he is going to be pursuing other opportunities.” Liz Dibble, NEA’s PDAS will reportedly be steering the ship in the interim.

Below is Jeffrey Feltman, then US Ambassador to Lebanon during the 15,000 amcit evacuation via Cyprus in 2006. Unfortunately, he’s not the most Flickr-friendly official we have and we do not have a lot of photos to share.  But he is not altogether invisible.  Click here to view a few more photos in a slideshow of the outgoing NEA boss.

Ambassador Feltman with U.S. Marine Brigadier General Carl Jensen during the evacuation of Beirut, July 2006
(photo via Wikipedia)
Click here to view slideshow

Digger of Life After Jerusalem has a nice post (would tickle FS bloggers, too) on Secretary Feltman saying, “Don’t go.”

The IG inspectors also had great things to say about him when they reviewed the bureau in May 2011:

The Assistant Secretary has served throughout the region, including as Ambassador in Lebanon, as well as principal deputy assistant secretary and acting Assistant Secretary immediately prior to his current position. He received consistently high marks from employees throughout the bureau and the Department for his knowledge of the region, his communication skills, and his genuine concern for his staff and their workload. His own grueling schedule only reinforced that appreciation.

Each Friday, the Assistant Secretary convenes an open meeting that all bureau employees and key contacts inside and outside the Department may attend. Interagency contacts praised the front office for its professionalism, transparency, and openness, saying it resulted in better communication for all sides as they work together on difficult and urgent issues.

The Assistant Secretary, DASes, and EX director take an active interest in filling the bureau’s positions with the best officers they can find. The need to fill key Iraq slots over the past 7 years has resulted in many non-NEA hands coming into the bureau. The Assistant Secretary is understandably proud of this influx of new blood. Competition for prime NEA slots remains fierce, despite the long hours.

So there, that’s why he will be missed.

We do not have confirmation for this but he is reportedly heading to the UN Secretariat as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (DPA).  Good for him!

About where he’s going:  Established in 1992, DPA is the lead U.N. department for peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. According to the UN, the Under-Secretary-General manages the department, advises the Secretary-General on matters affecting global peace and security, carries out high-level diplomatic missions and provides guidance to peace envoys and political missions in the field.  The Under-Secretary-General also serves on the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee, the highest decision-making body within the U.N. Secretariat, and chairs the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, a high-level body for interagency and interdepartmental coordination.  In addition to its more than 250 professional and administrative staff at U.N. headquarters in New York, DPA draws from the work of political and peace-building missions under its supervision, which employ more than 1,700 national and international staff in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sounds like an interesting gig, with all best wishes!

Domani Spero

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State Dept’s Crocker, Feltman on May Departures … Leaving Posts in Nine Days?

AP’s Matthew Lee is reporting that Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs (NEA) who has guided U.S. policy through the tumult of the Arab Spring, plans to retire from the foreign service at the end of May and become a deputy to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. The report says that Feltman is expected to be named U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs.

Back in March 2012, Inner City Press first reported that Ambassador Feltman is slated to assume UN’s top political job currently filled by another former State Department hand, Lynn Pascoe.  Read it here.

And the Twitterverse erupted with Reuters news from Chicago that Ryan Crocker is reportedly expected to step down soon from his post as President Barack Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan. According to Reuters’ unnamed sources, “The Obama administration is considering Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham to replace Crocker when he leaves the post as early as this month.”

No one in Kabul is talking, but somebody in Chicago certainly did talk. Since both these departures are supposed to happen this month, and there’s only nine days left before we turn the calendar, we should hear about this officially very soon.

With Brett McGurk nominated for Iraq (and yet to get his confirmation hearing), Ambassador Munter leaving Islamabad this summer, and Ambassador Crocker reportedly leaving as early as this month – there will be a complete turn over of the Chiefs of Mission for our Afghanistan-Iraq-Pakistan (AIP) missions.

Update @ 12:43 pm ET: The US Embassy in Kabul has now confirmed via Twitter Ambassador Crocker’s departure.  NPR says that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also confirmed in an email to reporters just after 11:30 a.m. ET that Ambassador Crocker’s departure is due to “health reasons.”

CNN reports that “Crocker was appointed to the post in Kabul on July 25, 2011. The relatively short length of his service in the Afghan capital is no surprise. In recent history, American ambassadors have served similar terms.

Well, that’s not quite right. The last four ambassadors appointed to Kabul served two-year terms. During the last five ambassadorial appointments to Kabul, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a Political appointee, served for approximately 19 months. Another political appointee, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry served approximately 27 months. Ambassadors Neuman and Wood served approximately 20 and 23 months respectively.  If Ambassador Crocker is going to stick around until the “donors conference in Tokyo in July” he shall have served 12 months this time around. Ambassador Crocker was also  appointed Charge d’Affaires ad interim from Jan 2, 2002-April 3, 2002 after the reopening of the US Embassy Kabul in 2001.

Domani Spero

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