Veteran Diplomat David Satterfield Named New State Department Middle East Director

Former top Iraq aide to Condoleeza Rice under Bush, Satterfield also has rich experience working on Israeli-Arab relations

FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy David Satterfield, left, and Palestinian senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, right, brief the media after talks trying to promote a U.S.-backed plan for renewing peace talks and establishing a Palestinian state with provisional borders by 2003 in Jericho on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2002. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

WASHINGTON - David Satterfield, a veteran American diplomat who has served in a number of key Middle East postings, will become the new acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs starting September. Satterfield's appointment was first reported by the Associated Press, and was confirmed to Haaretz by a State Department official on Monday.

Satterfield has a vast experience when it comes to the Middle East. He has served as a diplomat in a number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia. Under the George W. Bush administration, he served as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and as the department's coordinator for Iraq, a country which would be one of his top responsibilities in his new role starting from next month.

Satterfield has also dealt extensively with Israeli-Arab relations over the years, most recently in 2009 when he was appointed to be director general of the multi-national force in the Sinai, which helps maintain the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. After that role, he returned to the State Department in 2014 to be a special adviser on Libya.

Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz that "Satterfield is experienced, knowledgeable, and creative, and he is respected around the region. He was a key partner to Israel and Egypt in helping them avoid misunderstandings and deal with sensitive security issues in the Sinai. Pending a confirmed assistant secretary, the Near East Bureau will be in good hands."

Tamara Cofman-Wittes, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs under Hillary Clinton, wrote that Satterfield is "a master of his brief" and one of the smartest career diplomats she had worked with.

Satterfield will replace Stu Jones, another veteran diplomat who has worked extensively on the Middle East, including tenures as ambassador to Iraq and Jordan. Jones announced his retirement from the department earlier this year.

The Trump administration has been under criticism in recent months for failing to nominate candidates for more than two dozen senior State Department positions. The New York Times recently reported that nominations to "most of the department's 38 highest-ranking jobs" have not been made, more than half a year since Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assumed office.