An Undiplomatic Mistress Writes Book, Does Tour

I recently just saw this piece about UK’s Ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlot. The same one who survived a suicide attack last April in Sana’a.

Apparently, there’s more to Ambassador Torlot than you and I may not care to know, but soon would be public knowledge because his mistress has written a book.  This whole thing went down the last couple of years when the ambassador’s wife and daughter returned to England at the beginning of 2008 and the ambassador’s mistress moved into the ambassador’s official residence in the spring of that year. That must have been quite a scandal in a country where adultery is punishable with death by stoning.

This is not the first incident involving a British Ambassador and a mistress in recent years, of course.  Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray also walked away from a 20-year marriage in favor of a bellydancer from a Tashkent nightclub. That dancer later opened a one-woman show in a London stage called The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer and wrote about it here.

Hey! I can see you rolling your eyes.

Anyway, below is Barbara Davies of Mail Online with some more bits on this story. Be warned, some parts might make you want to — well, run to the vomitorium … 

Six months after his affair with 41-year-old journalist Jennifer Steil threatened to cause a diplomatic crisis in the deeply Muslim country, the amorous 52-year-old’s tumultuous private life has come back to haunt him once again.

And this time the drama comes straight from the pen of his raven-haired lover, who – having given birth to Torlot’s daughter, Theadora Celeste – last November, has now published an extraordinary no-holds-barred account of the events leading up to their affair and their life together in Yemen’s ancient walled capital.
As one source put it to the Mail: ‘Torlot has behaved with a complete lack of honour. He is presumably well aware of how distasteful his behaviour was to so many people at the Embassy, and how it compromised his reputation.’
When news of her affair with Torlot became public, many assumed that the Ambassador was having some kind of mid-life crisis. Their liaison began not long after Torlot paid tribute to his loyal wife Bridie at his 50th birthday party.

‘There was a lot of joking that he’d given himself a 50th birthday present to remember by sleeping with Steil,’ says a source.
[H]er descriptions, often in semidiary form, also make clear that she set her sights on the Ambassador right from the moment she met him.
‘My heart trips over itself. This is the man I want to marry. The thought flashes through my mind only seconds after our hands meet. I want to check his left hand but I can’t look away from his eyes.’
My love for him has no expectations; it just is. But why, why must there be a wife?’

In fact, throughout her entire account of her relationship with Torlot, it is clear that Steil barely gave Bridie Torlot a second thought as she moved in to seduce her husband.
Friends say that Bridie Torlot finally ‘deduced’ what was going on from her husband ‘ s erratic behaviour. Steil says: ‘By Christmas eve he’d told her everything, and by January she is gone.’
Since then, Steil has taken Bridie Torlot’s place at the Ambassadorial Residence. She returned to London with Torlot last year to give birth to her daughter, and all three are now living back in Yemen.
The Foreign Office has continued to insist that it is a private matter for Torlot and Steil.

But thanks to Steil’s indiscretions, it is hard to see how it can be described as that any longer.

What – you’re calling this gossip? No, it’s not. It’s now called literature. Read the whole thing here

The book’s title?  The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen. Below is Random House’s book blurb:

Restless in her career and her life, Jennifer, a gregarious, liberal New Yorker, initially accepts a short-term opportunity in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the staff of The Yemen Observer in Sana’a, the beautiful, ancient, and very conservative capital of Yemen. Seduced by the eager reporters and the challenging prospect of teaching a free speech model of journalism there, she extends her stay to a year as the paper’s editor-in-chief. But she is quickly confronted with the realities of Yemen–and their surprising advantages.  In teaching the basics of fair and balanced journalism to a staff that included plagiarists and polemicists, she falls in love with her career again. In confronting the blatant mistreatment and strict governance of women by their male counterparts, she learns to appreciate the strength of Arab women in the workplace. And in forging surprisingly deep friendships with women and men whose traditions and beliefs are in total opposition to her own, she learns a cultural appreciation she never could have predicted.  What’s more, she just so happens to meet the love of her life.

That blurb seem almost romantic, doesn’t it?  The Woman Who Fell From the Sky  is on Facebook and also has its own website now. 

The last name acknowledged in the book?

“Timothy Achille Torlot, for reading this book more times than anyone should, and for loving me more than I thought anyone could.”

No, she did not thank Mrs. Torlot for vacating the official residence quickly.

At the back of my mind I wonder about Mr. Torlot’s career prospects after this.  I can’t imagine a scandal like this would play well with the new FCO boss, traditionalist conservative, William Hague. But that remains to be seen. 

Reform of "Secret Holds" Seriously Deminted

(183/365) Shhh....Image by Sarah G… via Flickr
Unless you’re an executive nominee subjected to a “secret hold” you probably do not pay much attention to what has been called “one of the most pernicious, most antidemocratic practices in government.”
But over in the North Wing, our council of elders can exercise their secret hold over any nominee for whatever reason they see fit. And they’re seldom ever called to account for it.  For instance, right now, Ambassador Robert Ford’s nomination to be chief of mission in Damascus appears to be stuck at the door mat. Josh Rogin of The Cable reports that “[t]welve Republican senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday to let her know they intend to block the nomination of Robert Ford, whom President Obama has named to become the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in five years.” 
Josh writes that “The senators aren’t buying State’s argument that sending an ambassador to Syria is not a reward, but rather a smart way to engage and perhaps even persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop taking provocative actions.”
You know, some guy once wrote that Syria must come out on whose side it’s on. It’s on Syrian side, dummy!  Any foreign government who places the USG interest before its own will not remain the government of the day for long (heard what happened over at one of the -stans?) But countries, not just this one — need to be convinced that their interests are  aligned with the United States in many parts of the world. I’ve written about this before the 2008 elections here and here. I think it is useful to remember that the United States is not in a single player system, anymore.
In any case, who is going to convince the Syrian president about alignment of interests and whatnot if the United States does not even have the President’s personal representative in Syria? You expect the deputy ambassador to convince President al A. of such and such things when the embassy could even get face time over there?
Just think how much face time the other side has racked up in Damascus by now and all it’s hearing from the US side is noise.
Back on secret holds — Steve Aftergood of Secrecy News recently posted that “a long-term, bipartisan effort to eliminate the Senate custom of using “secret holds” to anonymously block pending legislation or nominations was scuttled just as it was on the verge of approval last Thursday after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) attempted to insert an unrelated amendment at the last minute.” (See Reform of “Secret Holds” Derailed in Senate | May 17th, 2010).
He also added in his post that “A spokesman for Sen. DeMint told the Washington Post that it was not his intent to block the reform of secret holds, but only to get a vote on his own measure, and that he too supported an end to secret holds.”
A commenter asked what was the amendment about, and Steve Aftergood writes: “DeMint’s amendment was intended “To require the completion of the 700-mile southwest border fence [with Mexico] not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act.” This is a matter of controversy, unrelated to the question of secret holds.”
Oh, by goat’s heavens — now I get it ….Mexican border fence … secret holds …. Mexican border fence …. secret holds …. they even rhyme, if you say them backwards…

Related Links:
CIR: Senator’s pursuit of border fence kills attempt to reform secret holds
WaPo: Senate’s attempt for more open government may fail again, thanks to Sen. DeMint

Officially In: Patrick S. Moon to Sarajevo

Kravice waterfall on the Trebižat river, karst...Image via Wikipedia

On May 18, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Patrick S. Moon to be Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The WH released the following brief bio:

Patrick S. Moon is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. He previously served as the Coordinator for Afghanistan while concurrently serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan. Moon was also the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Croatia. His other overseas assignments include Beirut, Zaire, and Geneva. Other Washington assignments include the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau’s Director of the Office of Austrian, German and Swiss Affairs, Deputy Director of the Office of UN Political Affairs, and Director of the Afghanistan Office in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

Moon earned an M.A. degree in International Relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

If confirmed, this would be Mr. Moon’s first ambassadorial appointment. He would succeed career diplomat, Charles L. English who was appointed to the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007.

Related Item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/18/10

Officially In: Christopher W. Murray to Brazzaville

Brazzaville: snapshotsImage by Kanti Kumar via Flickr

On May 18, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Christopher W. Murray to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo. The WH released the following brief bio:

Christopher W. Murray is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  He currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels.  He previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Lebanon and in Algeria.   His other overseas assignments include Syria, a prior posting in Brussels, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Jamaica.  At the State Department in Washington he has served in the Bureaus of Nonproliferation, European Affairs, International Organizations, and African Affairs.  

Murray received a B.A in Government from Lawrence University and a J.D. from Cornell Law School.

If confirmed, this would be Mr. Murray’s first ambassadorial appointment. He would succeed two times ambassador, Alan W. Eastham who was appointed to the US Embassy in Brazzaville in 2008.

Related Item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/18/10

Quickie: Applying social software to digital diplomacy at the State Dept

This one from Alex Howard | @digiphile |

How do you move from a culture of “need to know” to a culture of “need to share?” Richard Boly thinks about the answer to that question every day. Boly, a speaker at next week’s Gov 2.0 Expo, is the director of the Office of eDiplomacy at the State Department. His office is an applied technology think tank within the agency that’s focused on improving the agency’s communication and knowledge sharing.

Boly is responsible for overseeing Virtual Presence Posts (VPPs), enterprise search, classified web publishing, and social networking, including the development of “StateBook.” He recently spoke with me about all of these initiatives, as well as the cultural challenges of integrating social software into a large, distributed enterprise.

Read more here. I think I’ll let this stand with no further comment.