Officially In: Daniel B. Shapiro to Tel Aviv

On March 9, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Daniel B. Shapiro to be Ambassador to Israel. The WH released the following brief bio:

Daniel B. Shapiro is currently Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Staff at the White House, a position he has held since January of 2009. Mr. Shapiro served as a Senior Policy Advisor with a focus on Middle East policy on the Obama for America campaign and the Obama-Biden Transition.  From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Shapiro was Vice President of Timmons and Company, and from 2001 to 2007, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.  Prior to that, Mr. Shapiro served as Director for Legislative Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration. From 1995 to 1999, he was a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and from 1993 to 1995, he served as a Professional Staff Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. Shapiro holds an M.A. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Brandeis University.

President Barack Obama talks with members of his Middle East Policy team, including
from right, George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East Peace;
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Dennis Ross, senior director for the Central Region;
and Dan Shapiro, senior director for the Middle East, in the Oval Office, Sept. 1, 2010.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Note: Leftmost person in the photo with back to the camera is Jeffrey Feltman,
the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs)
Additional bio below from the Jewish Federations of North America:
Daniel B. Shapiro is deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida).  He is a foreign policy specialist with particular expertise in the Middle East.  Previously, Mr. Shapiro was director for legislative affairs at the National Security Council, serving as Congressional liaison for National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.  He served from 1995 to 1999 as legislative assistant and senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and from 1993-1995 as a professional staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, under Chairman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana).  He previously worked for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Shapiro’s direct phone number in the White House is reportedly on speed dial for most Jewish leaders. If confirmed, Mr. Shapiro would replaced career diplomat, James B. Cunningham who arrived on August 2008 as US ambassador to Israel. He would only be the second non-career ambassador to Israel since 1975.  The first was Martin S. Indyk, who was ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and again, from 2000 to 2001.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Laura Rozen moves to Yahoo, starts foreign affairs blog, The Envoy

On March 10, Yahoo News launched its newest blog on foreign affairs, The Envoy with Laura Rozen.  She was most recently with  Her new blog will join other Yahoo News blogs like The Upshot,  The Gadget Hound, The Ticket and others.

Excerpt from her welcome post:

Here at the Envoy, we aim not only to tell the story of international affairs, but also to throw new light on the power players and storytellers–the political leaders who are seeking to forge new alliances and advance new narratives; the war-planners and intelligence operatives who are supplying the behind-the-scene information and artillery to project U.S. power abroad; the armies of private contractors who now outnumber the number of military troops the U.S. has deployed in major theaters of war, together with the battalions of lobbyists and influence-peddlers who procure the government contracts; and of course the U.S. political actors–from the president, who provides the overarching ideological arguments and policy doctrines to the working level bureaucrats, who carry out U.S. policy day to day.

I have been reporting on foreign affairs, national security and intelligence issues for more than a dozen years, most recently as the chief foreign policy reporter for Politico, and previously for Foreign Policy magazine, where I launched “The Cable” blog. Based out of Washington, D.C., I have also reported from the Balkans, Russia, Turkey and Israel, and wrote the afterword to the memoir of former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson, Fair Game.

Check out her new digs here

2010 State Department Awards (FSOs) — A Lot of Kabul Hands

November in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Room  is always a full house, especially during the annual awards day for employees. If you work for State, the following is no longer news as you probably have seen this already in a cable.  For non-State folks, the names of awardees are often published in State Magazine, months after the actual  ceremony; this time in the February 2011 issue of the magazine.   

The State Mag coverage notes that more employees are serving in war zones and hardship posts and that “the respect for what they have managed to achieve, despite the obstacles, was palpable in the words of their leaders and the reaction of their peers.”

The State Department gave out a total of 28 awards last year. A quarter of the 2010 awards went to employees who served in Afghanistan, primarily, in Kabul. Seven current and former officers at US Mission Afghanistan received awards in impact and originality in reporting, economic achievement, innovation in technology, advancing women’s role, information technology, international economic performance and mentoring.

The second Ryan Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy went to Ambassador Anne Patterson, most recently of US Embassy Pakistan.  She was cited for “her unrelenting pursuit of U.S. national security goals in Pakistan while ambassador there and ushering in a new era of productive relationships between Pakistan and the United States that will lay the groundwork for a more secure future for both countries.”

As a reward, she will  reportedly be sent to Cairo as our next ambassador to Egypt. A quick note here: the first recipient of the Ryan Crocker award was Elizabeth Rood, previously of Afghanistan/PRT and until recently, the Consul General in Peshawar, Pakistan.  

Speaking of the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, the Diplomatic Security Employee of the Year is Steven M. Miller, formerly the regional security officer there. He was cited “for exceptional leadership in balancing traditional security concerns with the importance of implementing U.S. foreign policy goals to ensure U.S. national security and counterterrorism objectives were met during a period of extreme danger.”

The Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence went to Charles E. Bennett, the consular section chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and consular coordinator for Mission Vietnam. He was cited “for outstanding success in revitalizing the consular section, planning for the future, providing key policy input and serving as a role model for the next generation of Department officers while contributing to the career development and morale of officers and LE staff alike.”

The Linguist of the Year Award went to Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, the US ambassador to South Korea. She was cited “for her  exceptional commitment and success in learning and using the Korean language, and inspiring others to do the same to deepen and strengthen the bilateral relationship.”

I should note that Ambassador Stephens runs a bi-lingual blog with the help of her embassy staff, check it out here. She may also be the only chief of mission who has turned her blog into a book — it’s called “내 이름은 심은경입니다 (My name is Shim Eun-Kyong),” and in English, “An American Ambassador’s Reflections on Life in Korea.”

Awardees from US Mission Afghanistan:

Director General’s Award for Impact and Originality in Reporting |
Christopher R. Green

Green, former political officer at the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand Province, was cited for his comprehensive reporting that provided policymakers with a sophisticated understanding of the complex political dynamics and potential solutions in Helmand, one of the most challenging Afghan provinces because of its mix of Taliban activities, opium and corruption.

Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement by Senior Officers |
Earl Anthony Wayne

Wayne, coordinating director for Development and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for outstanding leadership in reorganizing, reforming, redirecting and reinvigorating U.S. economic, development and governance policies and programs in Afghanistan and making them more effective in promoting economic reform, growth and development.
Ambassador Wayne is currently deputy ambassador at the US Embassy in Kabul

Innovation in the Use of Technology Award |
Erin A. Nickerson

Nickerson, former political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for enabling civilians throughout Afghanistan and Afghanistan watchers worldwide to access critical information and communicate more effectively by establishing the post’s Intelink Web site and transferring fi eld personnel to accounts.

Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation | Nujayed Ahmad –FSN
Ahmad, political specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for outstanding work in Nangarhar Province to advance and report on the status of women and their role in the 2010 parliamentary elections.

Thomas Morrison Information Management Award |
Elizabeth M. Slater

Slater, former information management offi cer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for sustained superior performance in expanding mission systems throughout Afghanistan to support those in the field, as well as expanding the capabilities of those systems while maintaining a high level of service to the embassy.

Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award |
Joseph A. Mussomeli

Mussomeli, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for his extraordinary commitment to motivate, encourage and care for those with whom he lived and worked at Embassy Kabul in 2009 and 2010.
Ambassador Mussomeli is currently chief of mission at US Embassy Slovenia.

Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance | Jerry Bisson
Bisson, director of the Offi ceof Infrastructure, Engineering and Energy with the U.S. Agency for International Development at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, was cited for his exceptional achievements in advancing the implementation of the President’s strategy for Afghanistan by integrating U.S. government investments across key sectors to create jobs and generate income crucial to providing alternatives to the insurgency.

Read the rest of State’s 2010 “Super Stars” below:

2010 State Department Awards | FSOs

Extracted from State Magazine | February 2011

A week of diplomatic apologies, a brewing sex scandal and diplomatic immunity still in the news

“I feel sorry for this scandalous incident,” said Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan at a National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee meeting yesterday, promising reforms at diplomatic posts overseas.

The scandalous incident South Korea’s top diplomat is referring to? A brewing quad-love-angle involving a diplomat assigned to its mission in Shanghai, two other officials from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and “a Chinese siren, Deng Xinming, 33, who lives in Shanghai with her Korean husband.”  Three men and one siren, and a husband who reportedly complained to the South Korean government about the affairs.  Move over, Anna Chapman, there’s a new break out star over there.

One local report says the diplomat resigned from his job after the affair was discovered and returned to China in a possible bid to be with the woman: 

“Deng seemed like someone I was related to in a former life,” an official of the Justice Ministry quoted the consul as saying during its investigation. “I want to go to China and live with her.”

The official said that he advised the consul to come to his senses, saying, “She met you because you were in a consul position. She wouldn’t meet you now.”

Not too far away, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the East Asia Pacific Affairs arrived in Japan for a two-day visit and has to apologized to Japan on behalf of the United States for remarks made by one of his officers. According to ABC News, Mr. Campbell speaking to reporters in Tokyo offered a personal apology for “misunderstandings” the reports may have caused.

“In all my meetings, I will offer deep apologies for the developments in Okinawa, and the misunderstandings that have taken place,” Campbell said. “The alleged statements in no way reflect U.S. government policy and the feelings towards the people of Okinawa.”

Ambassador John Roos reportedly also reached out to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and expressed “deep regret” for the purported remarks. In a statement released Monday, the U.S. embassy said the comments “attributed to a U.S. government official in no way reflect U.S. government views.”

What is this all about and what were they apologizing for?

According to ABC News, the State Department’s Director of Japan Affairs, Kevin Maher reportedly made an in an off-the-record lecture given to students at Washington’s American University in December. Maher’s comments were made during a speech on “Military Bases and Their Impacts on Okinawa.” This is part of what Mr. Maher reportedly said, “Consensus building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this ‘consensus,’ they mean ‘extortion’ and use this culture as a means of extortion.”
ABS News added that “the comments were an apparent reference to financial subsidies Tokyo pays to Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases on the island. “Students also noted that Maher called Okinawa residents “too lazy to grow goya,” referring to a bitter melon, famously used in local cuisine.” Mr. Maher was reportedly expected in Japan for bilateral talks but has now canceled the trip.

A March 10, 2011 statement from the US Embassy Tokyo attempts to better the wrinkle: 

Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell today informed Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto that, effective immediately, Rust Deming, a long-time diplomat, former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and a strong friend of Japan, has been appointed Director of the Office of Japan Affairs at the State Department.

Assistant Secretary Campbell conveyed his deep regrets about statements attributed to Mr. Maher in recent news reports. He reiterated that these reported statements in no way reflect U.S. Government policy or the utmost respect the United States has for the Okinawan people.

In New York, NYPost
reported that Oleg Sharifov, 33, of Georgia who is in the big apple accompanying the official delegation of Georgia, including its head of state, has allegedly pilfered hundreds of dollars of merchandise from the Century 21 department store downtown. He dodged prosecution by claiming diplomatic immunity and was released to representatives from the UN Mission to Georgia and the Consulate of Georgia. A representative for the Georgian Embassy in Washington was quoted in the report saying, “[Sharifov] is a Georgian citizen, and this incident is under investigation.”

Meanwhile, over in Pakistan, CNN reported that the Raymond Davis case has been adjourned until March 16 when Davis is expected to be formally charged. Arrested on Jan 27, Davis will also have a hearing at the Lahore High Court on March 14 which could determine if he has diplomatic immunity and should be released.