The Cable

State Department foursome fills Robert Einhorn vacuum

If you wear many hats, it’s going to take many heads to replace you. That’s the dynamic playing out at the State Department with the departure of Robert Einhorn, the  special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, who is joining the think tank world as senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The diplomat’s dizzying array ...

If you wear many hats, it’s going to take many heads to replace you.

That’s the dynamic playing out at the State Department with the departure of Robert Einhorn, the  special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, who is joining the think tank world as senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The diplomat’s dizzying array of responsibilities included everything from advising the secretary of state to coordinating the implementation of sanctions on Iran, Syria, and North Korea to negotiating with South Korea on a successor civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.

A State Department official tells The Cable that Einhorn’s position will be dissolved, which will bring greater responsibility to a number of high-ranking diplomats — four in particular.

On the South Korea side of things, where Einhorn handled the two-year extension of the country’s bilateral civil nuclear agreement with the United States, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman will take over. On sanctions, Ambassador Dan Fried has added Einhorn’s portfolio to the broad array of U.S.-sanctioned countries he’s already in charge of as State’s sanctions coordinator. On Iran, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who was already leading the diplomacy related to Iran, will play an even larger role making policy toward the country. Many of these duties, of course, fall under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, a post that continues to be filled on an acting basis by Rose Gottemoeller, a nonproliferation whiz with a lot of expertise on Russia issues.

"It’s an all hands on deck sort of thing," the State Department official told The Cable, adding that Gottemoeller and company had "long-planned" to take over for Einhorn.

When asked if Einhorn’s absence might set back the Obama administration’s nonproliferation goals, given his vast role, Gary Samore, a longtime nonproliferation expert at Harvard, dismissed the idea. "That’s ridiculous," he said. "Bob is an exceptional talent, but one person leaving the government is not going to result in arms control nonproliferation being adrift. That depends more on the president."

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