Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who's making State Department policy

Helpful Articles:
The Consequentialist: How the Arab Spring remade Obama's foreign policy - Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, 5/2/11
How Obama turned on a dime towards war - Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy: The Cable, 3/18/11

Recently, i have begun to do a little bit of research into who is actually crafting the Obama administrations foreign policy.  As an explanation, i will refer to my original title--"Is the State Department full of Neocons?--because that seemed to be the hypothesis that first jumped out at me.  However, upon digging a little deeper, the answer is murky.   At first glance, none of the prominent "neocon" officials who were instrumental in crafting post 9/11 foreign policy are serving in the Obama administration.  Men like Paul Wolfowitz are Elliot Abrams are ensconced in various think-tanks, while others have entered private business.  However, a good number of their appointees are still holding posts.
          One thing that becomes clear upon looking at the State Department leadership page is that there has been a large amount of turnover in 2011.  The post of Deputy Secretary of State, second in command at Foggy Bottom, was held by James B. Stienberg from the time of Obama's appointment through June 24th, 2011.  Stienberg had worked in the NSC leadership during the Clinton Administration, and worked at the Brookings Institute and the LBJ school during the Bush years.
         When Stienberg left, his post was filled by William J. Burns, a career diplomat who progressed up the State Department ranks under Bush.  He served as head of Near Eastern Affairs from 2001-2005, ostensibly in charge of all Middle East Policy, after which he was made ambassador to Russia--the specialty of then Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice.  In the last year of the Bush administration he was promoted again, to undersecretary for political affairs, 3rd in command at the Department.  He maintained this post through the first three years of the Obama Administration, until his latest promotion last summer.
         Burn's post as Undersecretary for Political Affairs was filled in turn by Wendy Sherman, like Stienberg a veteran of the Clinton Administration who did not serve in government during the Bush years.  Sherman was a founding partner of Albright associates, a private consulting firm, where she most recently served as Vice Chair from 2008-2011.  She was also an advisor to the 2008 Clinton Campaign, as well as serving on Obama's State Department transition team.    

      In the bureau of Near-Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman has served as the Assistant Secretary for the entirety of the Obama presidency.  Like Burns, Feltman progressed up the ranks of the State Department during the Bush administration.  He worked in the State Department's Jerusalem Bureau from 2001-2003, then with Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, heading its Irbil office in the north of the country.  In 2005, he was made Ambassador to Lebanon, where he served until February of 2008, when he was moved back to Washington DC to be the PDAS of NEA, then promoted to acting Assistant Secretary in December 2008.  He maintained this post under the Obama administration.  Within Near Eastern Affairs, a number of Ambassadors were also holdovers from Bush's State Department.
         In Iraq, James F. Jeffrey sits in the massive US Embassy in the Green Zone.  He had done extensive work in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, as well as serving in Ankara as the Ambassador in Turkey from 2008-2010.  Between these two postings, Jeffrey worked at the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, as the PDAS, where he worked with Elizabeth Cheney on Iran policy.  In this position, Jeffrey was heavily involved in the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, a controversial office led by Cheney and Elliot Abrams that was accused of pushing for regime change in Iran and Syria.
        In Syria, Robert Ford was finally approved to to the post in Damascus in January 2011.    He had served as ambassador to Bahrain from 2001-2004, and then moved to Baghdad's Green Zone, as a political counselor from 2004-2006 working under John Negroponte, then as deputy chief of mission in 2008-2009.  Between his two postings in Iraq, he was the ambassador to Algeria.  Michael Chudovsky, an emeritus professor at the University of Ottawa and the founder of the Center for Research on Globalization, has accused Ford of implementing many of the same "death squad" policies in Syria that were witnessed in Iraq, policies that were developed during the Reagan years in the Nicaraguan Civil War by Negroponte, Abrams, and Oliver North, etc..., a scandal known by the general name of Iran-Contra.
        In the Libyan situation, Ambassador Gene Cretz played a very interesting role.  A longtime Foreign Service Officer, he moved around the Middle East during the Bush Administration, first in Eygpt and Syria, before being promoted in 2004 to Deputy Chief of Mission in Tel-Aviv.  In July 2007, President Bush nominated him to be ambassador to Libya.  While Cretz was awaiting Senate Confirmation, he went back to the NEA bureau in Foggy Bottom, where he worked under AS David Welch.  It was during this time, in August 2008, that the "U.S. Libya-Comprehensive Claims Settlement" was signed, restoring full diplomatic ties between Washington and Tripoli by settling  claims against Libya stemming from the Lockerbie bombing at $1.5 billion, as well as claims against the U.S. for two bombing raids in 1986 at $300 million.  Four months after the signing, which allowed for a US embassy in Tripoli, Cretz was approved as Ambassador by the Senate.  At the same time, Welch resigned as AS and became a senior executive at the engineering goliath Bechtel, heading the Middle East and Africa divisions.
         Moving forward to 2011, Ambassador Cretz was recalled back to Washington in January, ostensibly being labeled the first "bureaucratic casualty" of the Wikileaks State Department cable dump.  At the time, much hoopla was made in the press about cables Cretz had authored remarking on Gadhaffi's "voluptous Ukrania nurse" and other health details and eccentricites, and it was even thought that Cretz, a career diplomat and the first full ambassador to Libya in 38 years, may lose his job.  However, taking into consideration further events, it could be suspected the Cretz's trip to Washington were for other reasons, as the Libyan embassy was closed in February.  Cretz, kept his job, and returned to the country for the reopening of the US embassy in Tripoli in September 2011, three weeks after rebel forces took Tripoli. In his speech at the openings, he made reference to oil as the "jewel in the crown" of Libyan resources and getting "American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs." However, in January 2012, it was announced that Cretz was being replaced by Chris Stevens, who had served as the State Department envoy to the Benghazi forces starting in April 2011.

More coming tomorrow...

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