Update on Global Coalition to Counter ISIL – Short, Short Version

Posted: 1:36 am EDT
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Remarks by Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk Before the Daily Press Briefing;  Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL Brett McGurk, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL; Washington, DC (01/05/16)

Screencap via Word It Out

Screencap via Word It Out

 

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SFRC Clears Eleven Ambassadorial Nominees

On Jun 19, 2012 the Committee on Foreign Relations cleared the following eleven ambassadorial nominees. The nominations will now go to the full Senate for the confirmation votes.

Edward M. Alford, of Virginia, 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 The Gambia.

Peter William Bodde, of Maryland, 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 Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

Piper Anne Wind Campbell, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mongolia.

Dorothea-Maria Rosen, of California, 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 Federated States of Micronesia

Mark L. Asquino, 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 Equatorial Guinea

Michele Jeanne Sison, of Maryland, 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 Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Maldives.

Douglas M. Griffiths, of Texas, 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 Mozambique

Jay Nicholas Anania, of Maryland, 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 Suriname

Susan Marsh Elliott, of Florida, 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 Tajikistan

Timothy M. Broas, of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Non-Career)

Richard L. Morningstar, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan (Non-Career)

Also on Jun 19, 2012, the Senate received the official withdrawal of Brett McGurk’s nomination:

PN1498    DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Brett H. McGurk, of Connecticut, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq.
Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.

Domani Spero


					

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

The Mystery of the State Department’s “Blue Balls” Email Leak, Datelined Iraq

Yesterday, The Common Ills blog has an interesting post on the US Ambassadors to Iraq – Crocker, Hill, Jeffrey, the latest nominee for that post, Brett McGurk and the broken system of the confirmation process. Excerpt:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Brett McGurk intends to take himself and his self-admitted “blue balls” before the Senate Foreign Policy Committee tomorrow, whether he will be asked by the senators whether it was appropriate to engage in an affair with a reporter while stationed in Iraq or to conceal it from his supervisors remains an unknown, Moqtada says they have enough signatures to call for a no-confidence vote on Nouri al-Maliki, poverty and sanitation rates released by an Iraqi ministry do not demonstrate progress, and more.
[…]
Iraq is supposedly a major issue to the US.  It should be.  US taxpayers saw trillions go into that illegal war.  The world saw millions of Iraqis die,  4488 US service members die (DoD count), ‘coalition’ partners losses, an unknown number of contractors, reporters and many more.  And you’d think with all that blood, with all those lives lost, with all that money wasted, that the US government would take the post of Ambassador to Iraq seriously.  One president having three nominees in one term — an ongoing term — does not indicate that serious work has been done either by the White House or the Senate.

All of the above would be for any person nominated today to that post.  In addition to the above, McGurk is woefully unsuited for the job.  He should be asked to explain his administrative experience.  He’s not heading a desk in a vacation getaway.  If confirmed, he would be heading the most expensive US embassy project.  That’s even with talk of staffing cuts and talk of this and talk of that.  Even now the US diplomatic presence in Iraq is the big ticket item in the US State Dept’s budget.  What in his record says to the American people, “Your tax dollars are not about to AGAIN be wasted?”

Iraq is highly unstable.  The US should not be sending Ambassador Number 3 since 2009.  But it’s in that position now because people trusted to do the work — vetting the nominee, confirming the nominee — didn’t do their jobs.

Read the whole thing here plus a new post today here.

We would like to see the Senate vet the ambassadorial nominees scrupulously, whether they are career diplomats or political appointees. What we have seen happen, of course, if far from that.  Sometimes, the confirmation hearing is just like a bad piece of theater, with softball questions. And when they do exercise their Senate holds,  it is rarely for questions about the expertise of the nominees, but more often than not for political reasons. And both parties are  equally at fault on this.

Mr. McGurk is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing at the SFRC today. We’ve been tied up with something else so have yet to see the video of the hearing.  (Note:  @5:12 EST, no videos or testimonies were posted at the SFRC). If he is confirmed, he would be the 6th US Ambassador appointed to Iraq post 2003 invasion.   The average ambassadorial tenure since 2004 is about a year and a half.

Now about the “blue balls” email (what’s that? nothing to do with blue Christmas) — they are of a personal nature conducted in what appears to be the unclassified system of the State Department from June and December of 2008.  Quick thoughts on this:  1) there is no way to tell if the email exchange is authentic or not; 2) the leaker must not like Mr. McGurk very much, the emails went online the week of his confirmation hearing; and 3) anyone who has not gone through A-100 class escaped from the much repeated admonition/reminder given to career diplomats not/not to write anything that you don’t want to see on the front pages of NYT or WaPo, and now, of course, Cryptome.

It appears that the original email leak was posted as images in the photo sharing site, Flickr.  Nine images of purported emails between Brett McGurk and Wall Street Journal reporter, Gina Chon were up on Flickr on June 4 from a user named, DiploJoke.  No user profile is available on the site.  The images are large sizes 1024 (819 x 541) but given that these are text, they are a tad small to read.

On June 5th, the same emails appeared in Cryptome with the following note from the sender published on site:

A sends:

I rec’d this and thought you might post the details. McGurk is the Ambassadorial Nominee to represent the US in Iraq. His confirmation hearing is June 6.

At the height of the war and during the SOFA negotiations while countless American troops and Iraqi civilians were being slaughtered, it appears that Brett McGurk was engaged in an affair with Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon. He bragged endlessly about senior-level dinners, the secret SOFA negotiations, and “self-healing” exercises to cure his blue balls.

In a tribute to his professionalism and discretion, see emails: http://www.flickr.com/photos/80005642@N02/

The email images were posted enlarged in Cryptome, so they read a little fuzzy, but readable, nonetheless.

Jeff Stein of SpyTalk has this on Twitter with a link to Cryptome.

Cryptome which is run by  John Young publishes documents “that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance — open, secret and classified documents — but not limited to those.”   It is also noted for not removing documents from its server unless ordered directly by a US court.

If these purported emails are authentic, they reside in the unclassified system/archives of the State Department. The leaker could only be one of over 60,000 personnel with access to that worldwide system.  So there is the question of who leak these, but also why.  Was this a wink, wink leak or was this a rogue’s leak?

But one of the authors of the leaked emails writes, “I am so f*cking smooth!”

Ay! Caramba! It could be that the leaker has no appreciation for f*cking smooth people or it could be for an altogether different thing. Who knows what’s hiding in the hearts of email leakers?

Besides the obvious content of the real or not emails about healthy people having healthy appetites even in a war zone, one of the purported parties here is reportedly a married person.  As an aside, the Military Times reported yesterday that a US Army colonel who has at one time, war-zone command of the esteemed 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team is under court martial for six counts of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and 27 specifications including bigamy, fraud and charges of adultery. Anyway, that’s the military. The other purported party in this email chain is a member of the press, what folks like to call, the fourth estate. Wikipedia cites Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

So there’s the press.  Perhaps a relevant question here might be — what happens if when a member of the three estates is in a cozy personal relationship with a member of the fourth estate?

What kind of objective reporting from the war zone might we all expect? That would be an interesting research topic, yes?

In any case, if Mr. McGurk is confirmed, the State Department presumably will be in a rather tight bind. First, it has to investigate if these emails are real. That’s easy enough, it can dig through its email archives. Second, if these emails are genuine, the State Department must decide if its 2011 proposed disciplinary action against “a handful” of employees for their off-duty conduct, which included extra-marital affairs, also applies retroactively to special assistants under chief of mission authority and ambassadorial appointees. That would be most interesting to watch.

Updated  2:11 pm PST

Update 6/7/12 @ 11:11 PST
The Washington Free Beacon reports that their source on Capitol Hill with knowledge of the nomination confirmed that the State Department had acknowledged the emails came from their system.  The report also says that Mr. McGurk is now married to Ms. Chon. Unfortunately, there was only an NYT wedding announcement for #1.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin also has this:

“Multiple sources told The Cable the State Department has investigated the allegation about McGurk’s activity on top of the palace but was unable to find any evidence of that incident. It’s unclear whether State is investigating the circumstances surrounding McGurk’s affair with Chon.”

What did he do on top of the palace? Oh, dear. Expect the podium to say ahem, “this is a personal matter and we have no comment.”

The blue balls email are breaking online now, with comment threads lighting up. One of the most person of the street sensible comment we’ve seen:

“But wanting to have sex with a woman is not remotely a crime now is it? He eventually divorced his wife and he married his mistress. He’s a cad. OK. I don’t care about that. The question here, why was this guy so incredibly stupid as send these love notes on the State Department email network? Isn’t that disqualifying for someone who will oversee a $4 billion dollar budget?”

That sounds familiar …. oh, Newt!

In related news, AP reported today that suicides are surging among America’s troops, averaging nearly one a day this year – the fastest pace in the nation’s decade of war.  The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. That’s more than the war zone casualties in Afghanistan as of June 2012 which is 139 dead.
Domani Spero

SFRC Hearings This Wednesday – McGurk, Sison and Elliot

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will have the confirmation hearings of the ambassadorial nominees for Iraq, Tajikistan and the Maldives on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10 am at Senate Dirksen 419.

The nominees scheduled to appear before the SFRC are:

  • The Honorable Michele Jeanne Sison
    of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and to serve concurrently as
    Ambassador to the Republic of Maldives
  • Mr. Brett H. McGurk
    of Connecticut, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq
  • Ms. Susan Marsh Elliott
    of Florida, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan

Videos and prepared testimonies of the nominees will be available here hopefully by Wednesday.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

Officially In: Brett H. McGurk, from Senior Advisor to Iraq Ambassadorship

On March 26, 2012, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Brett H. McGurk as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq. The WH released the following brief bio:

Brett H. McGurk is currently senior advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.  Previously, he served as a senior advisor to Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Christopher Hill in Baghdad.  From 2005 to 2009, Mr. McGurk served on the National Security Council, initially as Director for Iraq and later as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan.  Prior to 2005, he was a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  He also worked as an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.  From 2001 to 2002, he served as a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Previously, Mr. McGurk was a law clerk for Judge Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Judge Gerard Lynch of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

He received a B.A. from the University of Connecticut and a J.D. from Columbia University.

We have previously posted about Mr. McGurk here after Laura Rozen of The Envoy got the scoop of this appointment in early March.  Here is a brief clip of Mr. McGurk and Ambassador Crocker with Christiane Amanpour via http://www.youtube.com/user/bmcgurk:

According to NYT, Mr. McGurk married the former Caroline Wong, an advertising account manager in New York in 2006.  The wedding announcement includes the following personal details:

Mr. McGurk, 32, was a legal adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq beginning in 2004 and later held the same post at the United States Embassy in Baghdad. In 2001 and 2002, he was a law clerk to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Mr. McGurk graduated from the University of Connecticut and Columbia Law School.

He is the son of Carol Ann Capobianco Cogan and the stepson of Jeremy Cogan of West Hartford, Conn. The bridegroom’s mother teaches art at the Aiken Elementary School, and his stepfather is a social studies teacher at Hall High School, both in West Hartford. The bridegroom is also the son of Barry McGurk of Hartford, who retired as an adjunct professor of English at the University of Hartford.

If confirmed, Mr. McGurk would succeed career diplomat, James Jeffrey who was appointed Ambassador to Baghdad in 2010. He will only be the second political ambassador ever appointed to Iraq (the first was Zalmay Khalilzad in 2005).

At 38, he will also hold the record as the youngest chief of mission ever appointed to the US Embassy in Iraq, which just happens to be the largest embassy in the world undergoing significant challenges.  Despite senior advisorships to Ambassadors Crocker, Hill and Jeffrey, Mr. McGurk has never managed an embassy, especially one with thousands of staff.  We are a tad anxious about this appointment for obvious reasons … but we’ll look forward to his SFRC hearing.

Domani Spero

 

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | March 26. 2012
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Brett McGurk as the next US Ambassador to Iraq?

The Envoy’s Laura Rozen citing an Iraqi diplomat and a former U.S. official who worked on Iraq, reports that the White House is expected to nominate Brett McGurk to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Here is Brett McGurk interviewed by CNN when he was the National Security Council’s Director for Iraq in 2007, responding to Senator Reid’s comments that President Bush is a “liar” and the war in Iraq is “lost.”

Here is his bio from CFR:

Brett H. McGurk is an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Recently an international affairs fellow in residence, he focused his research on legal and policy issues related to complex international negotiations, as well as current U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[…]
He served on the National Security Council staff of President George W. Bush (2005-2009), first as director for Iraq and then as special assistant to the president and senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama, as a special advisor. During the Obama administration, he also served as a senior advisor to Ambassador Ryan Crocker and then Ambassador Christopher Hill in Baghdad. In 2007 and 2008 he was the lead U.S. negotiator on agreements with the Iraqi government that set the conditions for a withdrawal of U.S. forces and built the foundation for bilateral relations between Iraq and the United States. For this assignment he received the Distinguished Honor Award from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the highest award the Secretary can bestow on a civilian not serving in the State Department.

He is a former Supreme Court law clerk, clerking for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 2001 to 2002, and in 2004-05 served as an attorney with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, focusing on issues of constitutional reform, elections, and government formation.

Brett holds a BA from the University of Connecticut and a JD from Columbia University, where he served as a senior editor of the Columbia Law Review.

If true, sounds like what’s old is new again.  We’ll be in the lookout for the formal announcement ….

Domani Spero