Appointments: Frank Lowenstein advising Kerry on Middle East; economist may move up

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More John Kerry aides have arrived at the State Department, officials tell the Back Channel.

Frank Lowenstein, former Senate Foreign Relations committee chief of staff and foreign policy advisor to Senator Kerry, has joined the Kerry State Department as a senior advisor, currently focusing on Middle East issues, officials tell the Back Channel. Lowenstein is currently working in the office of David Hale, the acting Middle East peace envoy, and may be being groomed to succeed him, the official said. Lowenstein joins State after a year at the Podesta Group.

Lowenstein joins the fray amid a flurry of preparations for Kerry's and President Obama's upcoming trips to the region. Kerry leaves Sunday for his first foreign trip as Secretary of State, heading to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. President Obama travels to Israel, Ramallah and Jordan next month.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro is in town this week helping prepare for President Obama’s trip, he said on Twitter Wednesday. Also in town to help prepare for Obama's trip, Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, an Israeli official told the Back Channel, as well as Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat, the State Department said.  (Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni his envoy on Palestinian peace talks.)

Meantime, Heidi Crebo-Rediker, who joined the State Department a year ago as its first chief economist, after advising Kerry’s foreign relations panel on international economic issues, may have a foothold to succeed Robert Hormats as Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, an administration source says..

A former investment banker, Crebo-Rediker has previously pioneered economics beats at both State, where she became its first chief economist, and the SFRC, where she served as the first chief of international finance and economics. It's not clear what the White House's view would be, or if it has other ideas for the position. (Crebo-Rediker's spouse Douglas Rediker previously served in President Obama/s first term as a member of the IMF executive board.)

Neither Crebo-Rediker or Lowenstein immediately responded to queries.

Some previous Back Channel Obama 2.0 appointments reports are here, here and here.

(Photo of Frank Lowenstein, by the Podesta Group; Heidi Crebo-Rediker, Department of State photo.)

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