Quickie: Battle brews over nominee for ambassador to Turkey

Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., U.S. Ambassador t...Image via Wikipedia

Elizabeth Dickinson writes in The Cable on the behind-the-scenes clash playing out over President Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey, a key Middle East post at a time of tense relations between Washington and an increasingly independent-minded Ankara.

That would be Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., most recently deputy ambassador to Kabul and nominee to be  the 27th US ambassador to the Turkish Republic. Excerpt:

[I]t’s his tenure as George W. Bush’s envoy to Egypt that has provoked the most criticism, particularly among neoconservatives who are hoping to persuade Republican senators to torpedo his nomination.
Former top National Security Council aide Elliot Abrams blames Ricciardone.

“Especially in 2005 and 2006, Secretary Rice and the Bush administration significantly increased American pressure for greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy in Egypt. This of course meant pushing the Mubarak regime, arguing with it in private, and sometimes criticizing it in public. In all of this we in Washington found Ambassador Ricciardone to be without enthusiasm or energy,” Abrams told The Cable.
“He’s an outstanding and extremely dedicated Foreign Service officer who has served his country in some very delicate and dangerous postings,” said Mitchell Reiss, who served at the State Department’s director of policy planning under Bush,
“Now is not the time for us to have an ambassador in Ankara who is more interested in serving the interests of the local autocrats and less interested in serving the interests of his own administration,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute.
For all of Riccardione’s detractors, he seems to have at least as many supporters. Experts, former officials, and diplomats from across the political spectrum have contacted The Cable in recent days to express their support for him and push back against what they see as the criticisms of a few. They say Ricciardone was made the scapegoat for a flawed Bush administration democracy push that never really had the financial commitment or follow-through it would have needed to be successful.

Read the whole thing here.