Who will be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq?

With many of the Cabinet-level posts in the new Obama administration already filled, the identity of one big position — the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq — remains up in the air. Obama’s national security team is convening today and the question of who will act as America’s day-to-day emissary to the Iraqi government will ...

591065_081215_crocker5.jpg
591065_081215_crocker5.jpg

With many of the Cabinet-level posts in the new Obama administration already filled, the identity of one big position -- the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq -- remains up in the air. Obama's national security team is convening today and the question of who will act as America's day-to-day emissary to the Iraqi government will likely be on the docket. So, who is in line to be our next man in Baghdad? Here are four possibilities:

 

Ryan Crocker

With many of the Cabinet-level posts in the new Obama administration already filled, the identity of one big position — the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq — remains up in the air. Obama’s national security team is convening today and the question of who will act as America’s day-to-day emissary to the Iraqi government will likely be on the docket. So, who is in line to be our next man in Baghdad? Here are four possibilities:

 

Ryan Crocker

Former Ambassador to Syria and Israel Edward Djerejian pushed the possibility of keeping on a former member of his staff, current U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. “He has a record of seeking out difficult assignments,” Djerejian told me. “He knows the region like the back of his hand, [and] he works well with the military.” Among other impressive assignments, Crocker served in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, and became ambassador at the conclusion of the war in 1990. He also was sent to Kabul to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan in January 2002, and served as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007.

 

David Satterfield

One person who may be able to duplicate Crocker’s knowledge of the Middle East, while still allowing Obama to claim the mantle of “change,” is another career diplomat, David Satterfield. He currently serves as senior advisor to Secretary Rice on Iraq, and had previously been the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad. He has also served abroad in Tunis, Jeddah, Beirut, and Damascus, as well as a stint in Washington as director of the State Department’s Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs.

 

Frank Ricciardone

Ricciardone served as the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt from 2005 until earlier this year. Ricciardone has long experience working with Kurdish groups in the north of Iraq. He served as U.S. political advisor for Operation Provide Comfort, an effort by the US and Turkish military to protect Kurds persecuted by Saddam Hussein following the first Gulf War. In 1999, he was selected as the State Department’s special coordinator for the transition of Iraq, tasked with coordinating the overthrow of Hussein’s regime with Iraq opposition groups.

 

Richard Holbrooke

Journalist and blogger Spencer Ackerman endorsed the former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke for the position. Ackerman speculates that Holbrooke could use his experience mediating in the Balkans to help Iraq overcome its sectarian obstacles. Having evidently missed out on a place in the cabinet, serving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq is one of the few remaining positions appropriate to Holbrooke’s stature. However, he lacks the Middle East experience of the other candidates, as well as fluency in Arabic, which is crucial for public diplomacy.

These are some names currently grinding through the D.C. rumor mill. Who do you think would be right for the job?

Photos: CEERWAN AZIZ/AFP/Getty Images, Mohammed Jalil-Pool/Getty Images, cairo.usembassy.gov, Alex Wong/Getty Images

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