Appointment news


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Several moves afoot among President Obama's top European security advisors and close allies of National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Together, sources suggested, they reflect Donilon's increased discretion to make senior National Security Staff appointments in Obama's second term after the move of Denis McDonough to become White House chief of staff, and that he seems inclined to pick trusted associates to oversee some of the most sensitive portfolios.

After four years in Brussels, US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder will be named President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Back Channel has learned. The announcement is expected to come as early as this week. Daalder, a former Clinton NSC Europe director and Brookings senior fellow, will head to Chicago in July, when ambassador posts usually rotate.

Philip Gordon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, will join Obama's National Security Staff, administration and diplomatic sources tell the Back Channel, in a senior role overseeing the broader Middle East, at a rank similar to that previously held by Dennis Ross.

Gordon, who has headed the State Department EUR bureau throughout Obama’s first term, will take on a senior NSS coordinator role overseeing the wider Middle East, with senior directors for the Middle East/North Africa and Persian Gulf reporting to him, sources said. Gordon did not immediately respond to a request for guidance from the Back Channel.

Much of Gordon's work handling the State Department Europe portfolio the past four years has been focused on coordinating joint US-European efforts towards the Middle East writ large, including Iran.

(Still to be named: the NSS Senior Director for the Middle East/North Africa previously held by Steve Simon, who has left the White House to head the International Institute for Strategic Studies-US. Sources continue to hear CSIS's Jon Alterman may be in the running, but that could not be confirmed.)

Administration sources have described Daalder and Gordon (also a Brookings alum) as among a group of trusted allies of NSA Donilon, along with NSS Senior Director for Europe Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

And one diplomatic source said Monday that he had heard that Sherwood-Randall would be tapped to succeed Gary Samore as the White House coordinator on WMD.  (Neither Sherwood-Randall nor a White House spokesperson responded to requests for guidance.)

A former Clinton administration Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Sherwood-Randall previously served on a Defense Threat Reduction review panel, as an advisor to the Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, and as a senior research fellow at Stanford University, before joining the Obama White House in 2009.

Samore left the White House earlier this month to become executive director of the Harvard Belfer Center. The Back Channel previously reported that Samore's deputy Laura Holgate may be tapped to succeed him, and that the WMD coordinator/”czar” post evolve in Obama's second term to deputy national security advisor.

The appointments, if correct, would seem to indicate Donilon putting trusted advisors in key  coordinating roles, with regional/functional policy experts reporting to them.  It may also reflect that the White House anticipates that its second term policies on Iran, Syria, arms control, etc. will involve especially intensive coordination and diplomacy with allies in Europe, NATO, Turkey, Russia and beyond–with which both Gordon and Sherwood-Randall have a lot of experience.

Meantime, State Department arms control envoy Robert Einhorn is still at Foggy Bottom and getting ready to accompany Under Secretary of State for Policy Wendy Sherman to Kazakhstan for P5+1 talks with Iran at the end of the month, a US official said Monday. Einhorn, who has been expected to retire later this spring, is said to have a chair waiting for him at Brookings. He will stay on at least for a couple of months, working almost exclusively with Sherman on Iran negotiations, an Obama official said.

(This post has been updated)

(Photo: President Barack Obama met with senior senior at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, November 20, 2010, including, from left, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, then Chief of Staff for Policy Mona Sutphen; Senior Director for European Affairs Liz Sherwood-Randall, Senior Director for Russia Mike McFaul, Senior Advisor David Axelrod; and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Source:


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  1. Pingback: White House names Sherwood-Randall new defense/WMD coordinator | The Back Channel

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