Appointment RUMINT

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The White House is expected to notify Congress as soon as tonight that it is re-nominating Carlos Pascual to be Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, sources tell the Back Channel.

Probably not coincidentally, Pascual is due to join National Security Advisor Tom Donilon at the launch Wednesday of a new Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy.

A former US ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine, Pascual has been in the acting job for over a year, and the young bureau is eager to get the assistant secretary in place. His nomination last year was put on hold, rumored to be by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), and it’s unclear as yet whether he or others plan to maintain it. Pascual recently married the daughter of Francisco Rojas, the head of Mexico’s CFE electricity company and PRI politician, officials said.

Near East: Two US officials say they now believe that Stuart Jones, the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan and former Deputy Ambassador to Iraq, may be leading the pack of candidates to succeed Beth Jones as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. Other possibilities mentioned are US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft, as well Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, and Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone.

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Obama 2.0: Who’s leaving, staying, moving

With UN ambassador Susan Rice set to meet Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte on Tuesday, pieces seem to be falling in place for her nomination to become Secretary of State to proceed.

Administration officials offered The Back Chanel more tips on moves afoot in the Obama administration foreign policy team.

In the certain to go camp:

Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell is leaving, official told the Back Channel, to chair the board of the Center for New American Security (CNAS), the think tank he co-founded with Michele Flournoy, and do Asia consulting. (His spouse Lael Brainard, Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs, may leave the administration too, an official said. White House chief of staff Jack Lew is expected to succeed Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary.)

NSC Middle East senior advisor Steve Simon is due to leave shortly to become head of a think tank, officials told the Back Channel.

AfPak envoy Marc Grossman will leave, officials said. It is unclear who will succeed him.

In the likely to move camp:

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns may be nominated to succeed Rice as US ambassador to the UN, officials said.

Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides is being mulled for a White House job, possibly White House chief of staff, which can put his knowledge of budgets to work, as well as his relationship with Congress and Wall Street.

NSC economics senior advisor Michael Froman is likely to move, possibly to become US Trade Rep. Continue reading

Slavin: Former Iran nuclear negotiator’s memoir recounts 2011 outreach to US envoy

In her report on the new memoir of former Iran nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, my colleague Barbara Slavin reports this scooplet: Iran, in February 2011, invited US Af-Pak envoy Marc Grossman to Iran to discuss a variety of issues.

Alas, as Slavin reports, it turned out to be yet another US-Iran diplomatic encounter not to be:

At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday (June 5), Mousavian said he believes that Obama was sincere in efforts to restart diplomacy in 2009 and that Ahmadinejad has also evolved over time. According to Mousavian, Ahmadinejad wants talks with the US on a variety of issues. In February 2011, Mousavian said, Iran asked Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to pay an official visit to Iran to discuss Afghanistan.

“They were going to open another door,” Mousavian said of the offer, but “the US declined.”

Asked about this, a senior US official told Al-Monitor that an offer emerged from Iranians taking part in so-called Track II discussions with former US officials, including former US ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner.

Grossman responded “through the same channel that he could not go but would be delighted to see an Iranian representative to talk about Afghanistan in Kabul,” the senior official said. Iran did not follow up, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was describing confidential diplomatic communications.

It has been the pattern of US-Iran relations that when one side is ready to move, the other is not and vice versa. On both sides, domestic politics frequently inhibit progress, with hard-liners quick to pounce on perceived naïveté or “excessive” concessions.

Mousavian says the key is to improve US-Iran relations, however hard that is to envision at this time. …

It’s worth noting Tehran’s invite to Grossman came just a couple weeks after international-Iran nuclear talks broke down in Istanbul in January 2011 (and didn’t resume again until some 15 months later).

Read her piece.