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Senate panel to examine Ricciardone and three other Mideast nominees

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is attempting to move four Middle East diplomatic nominees Tuesday, including the controversial selection of Francis Ricciardone to become ambassador to Turkey. "Through more than three decades I have observed Turkey’s continuing transformation into a more democratic, more open, and more economically vibrant, modern state and a player with growing ...

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is attempting to move four Middle East diplomatic nominees Tuesday, including the controversial selection of Francis Ricciardone to become ambassador to Turkey.

"Through more than three decades I have observed Turkey's continuing transformation into a more democratic, more open, and more economically vibrant, modern state and a player with growing influence on the world stage," Ricciardone will say in his opening testimony (pdf), obtained by The Cable.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is attempting to move four Middle East diplomatic nominees Tuesday, including the controversial selection of Francis Ricciardone to become ambassador to Turkey.

"Through more than three decades I have observed Turkey’s continuing transformation into a more democratic, more open, and more economically vibrant, modern state and a player with growing influence on the world stage," Ricciardone will say in his opening testimony (pdf), obtained by The Cable.

Noting decades of cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey, Ricciardone will also express disappointment at Turkey’s recent U.N. Security Council vote against new sanctions on Iran and Turkey’s deteriorated relationship with Israel following the Gaza flotilla incident.

"Turkey and Israel are both important partners of the United States," he will say.

But he will also note Turkish assistance with American efforts related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will describe Turkey as "one of our strongest partners in the fight against international terrorism."

Ricciardone will be sharing the witness table with two other nominees, Gerald M. Feierstein, who is nominated to become the envoy to Yemen and Maura Connelly, who is nominated to be President Obama’s ambassador to Lebanon.

The nominee to become ambassador to Iraq, Jim Jeffrey, who is also the outgoing ambassador to Turkey, will hear questions form senators by himself in a separate panel. Jeffrey is replacing Chris Hill, who will retire and join the University of Denver in September.

All four nominees will likely be approved by the committee despite some GOP opposition to Ricciardone based on criticisms of his tenure as ambassador to Egypt during the George W. Bush administration. But whether the full Senate will clear the nominees before the August recess is unclear.

Jeffrey is being fast tracked, our sources say, and should be confirmed by the full Senate before the break. The Senate is also sitting on the nomination of Robert Ford to become envoy to Syria, but Senate sources don’t see that nomination moving any time soon.

Ford was most recently the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, but now he sits at home waiting for the Senate to act. He has already been replaced in Baghdad by Stu Jones, a former deputy assistant secretary in State’s Europe bureau who will stay on when Jeffrey takes over.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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