The Cable

McGurk withdraws his nomination for Iraq ambassador

Brett McGurk withdrew himself Monday from consideration to be the next ambassador to Iraq, just one day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was due to vote on his nomination. McGurk faced opposition from at least six GOP senators on the committee, all of whom wrote to President Barack Obama last week to ask him ...

Brett McGurk withdrew himself Monday from consideration to be the next ambassador to Iraq, just one day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was due to vote on his nomination.

McGurk faced opposition from at least six GOP senators on the committee, all of whom wrote to President Barack Obama last week to ask him rethink McGurk’s nomination. Those six senators expressed concern that McGurk was too inexperienced for the job, had been a key part of the failed 2011 effort to negotiate and new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, and may have acted inappropriately in 2008 in beginning a relationship with a reporter who was covering him in Baghdad.

McGurk later married that reporter, Gina Chon, who resigned from the Wall Street Journal last week after the paper said she failed to disclose the relationship to her editors at the time and improperly shared unpublished news stories with McGurk. The June 5 disclosure of private e-mails between the two, exposed on the Cryptome website, fueled the calls for McGurk’s withdrawal on Capitol Hill.

Other senators, including John McCain (R-AZ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), also expressed concerns with the McGurk nomination that could have delayed the nomination after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted. But Democrats on the committee failed to rally to McGurk’s defense, setting the stage for him to withdraw before the vote could take place.

Although the State Department and the White House repeatedly said they stood by the McGurk nomination, his withdrawal also takes them off the hook and paves the way for a new nominee to replace Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, who is expected to leave Iraq in the coming weeks.

"Iraq urgently needs an ambassador. The country is in the midst of a political crisis and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation," McGurk wrote to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his letter, according to the New York Times.

In his letter, McGurk lamented that Chon had lost her job and said that he came to the decision to withdraw while visiting Arlington Cemetery.

"We have both lost friends in Iraq," he wrote. "In their memory, I remain forever committed to helping the country I love and the country I have come to know forge a lasting partnership. For me, this is a lifelong calling."

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