Dan Shapiro, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Joins Biden's Iran Team

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Dan Shapiro.
Dan Shapiro.Credit: Tomer Neuberg

WASHINGTON – Dan Shapiro, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, has joined the Biden administration's team on Iran as a special government employee and part-time senior adviser, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Monday.

"U.S.-Iran policy will benefit greatly from the participation of a diplomat of his caliber and experience," the spokesperson said, adding that Shapiro is "the first of what we plan to be a small group of part-time advisers, who will add to the diversity of perspective and knowledge on [Special Envoy Rob Malley's] team."

Shapiro's appointment, first reported by Axios, comes days after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to Washington, where he presented Israel's case against reentry into the Iran nuclear deal, as well as pushing for an alternative to diplomacy should talks fail.

Shapiro, who was previously floated as a potential Mideast envoy for the Biden administration, is highly regarded for his nearly unparalleled understanding of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He has lived in Israel since concluding his tenure as ambassador, working as a senior fellow at the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies think tank and as a principal at the WestExec Advisors consulting firm, founded by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, in 2017.Credit: Haim Zach / GPO

He has continued to hold close ties with Israeli officials across the spectrum, and will likely be tasked with running point between Washington and Jerusalem on any developments and concerns over Iran. Shapiro has advocated for improved U.S.-Israel cooperation on Iran's nuclear program, noting that the country's other aggressive activities in the region must be addressed. "At the end of the day, the United States and Israel do not have to agree on everything, but it’s in their mutual interest to coordinate their approaches on Iran," he wrote in the Washington Post in December 2020.

His appointment was roundly welcomed by supporters and opponents of the Iran deal alike. Dennis Ross, a former senior adviser to the Clinton and Obama administrations and current adviser to the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy organization, called Shapiro's appointment "a very smart move. It also shows that the administration is very serious about coordinating with the Israelis. That, too, sends an interesting signal." Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz called it a "smart choice," saying Shapiro is "clear-eyed about the threat from Iran and widely respected in Israel and Washington." He added that "hopefully he can toughen up the U.S. negotiating position, increase coercive leverage and help develop an effective Plan B." Left-wing organizations such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now also praised the move, offering congratulations and saying "our nation is lucky to have Shapiro on the team."

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