Friday, June 18, 2021

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Biden taps more Obama alums for key foreign policy jobs


WASHINGTON - President-elect Joe Biden plans to name several former Obama administration officials to senior jobs at the State Department and National Security Council in the coming days, adding more experienced and well-connected Democratic staffers to the country's sprawling national security bureaucracy.

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For deputy secretary of state, Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal under the Obama administration and the former No. 3 official at the State Department, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The nomination for the No. 3 job at the State Department, undersecretary for political affairs, is expected to go to Victoria Nuland, who served as spokesperson for the department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was the top U.S. diplomat for Europe under Secretary of State John Kerry, two people familiar with the decision said.

At the National Security Council, Biden is expected to give the job of deputy national security adviser to Jon Finer, a former Washington Post reporter who worked in a number of jobs in the Obama administration that culminated in his role as director of policy planning at the State Department. After leaving the administration, he worked at the Council on Foreign Relations and joined a private equity firm co-founded by the father of Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee for secretary of state.

Biden also plans to name Amanda Sloat as senior director for Europe on the NSC. The former Brookings Institution fellow served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean affairs at the State Department.

Biden's picks were first reported by Politico. A Biden transition spokesman declined to comment. The people familiar with the decisions spoke about them on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.

Sherman, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, played a prominent role in defending the Iran nuclear deal to a skeptical Congress.

Republicans are expected to grill Sherman on her involvement in the deal, which they uniformly opposed, while Democrats underscore that the agreement kept a lid on Tehran's nuclear program - restrictions that fell apart only after the Trump administration withdrew from the deal.

She also has experience negotiating with North Korea, which has continued to advance its nuclear weapons program despite the Trump administration's efforts to broker a denuclearization agreement.

Nuland, a prominent Russia hawk, advocated for sending lethal aid to Ukraine during her time in the Obama administration. During the George W. Bush administration, she served as deputy national security adviser to Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

Published : January 06, 2021

By : The Washington Post · John Hudson