Trump Loyalist to Take Iran Policy Job

Trump Loyalist to Take Iran Policy JobTrump Loyalist to Take Iran Policy Job

The administration of US President Donald Trump plans to install a political appointee at the US State Department to a key position for managing policy on Iran and Iraq, a move that will replace a career diplomat with a loyal supporter of the president.

Andrew L. Peek, a former captain in the US Army Reserve and member of the president's State Department transition team, will become the new deputy assistant secretary of state covering Iran and Iraq, according to three State Department officials familiar with the matter who recently talked to Foreign Policy.

Peek, a former US Army intelligence officer, has no prior diplomatic experience and has not earned a reputation as an established expert on Iran or Iraq but has years of experience in military intelligence and in the US Senate, where he served Republican senators on foreign policy issues.

He will replace Chris Backmeyer, who currently serves as deputy assistant secretary for Iran. Backmeyer previously served as deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department and National Security Council director on Iran from 2012 to 2014 under former president, Barack Obama.

The State Department is expected to make the announcement on Monday, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations.

  Outsized Influence on ME

In his new role, Peek could wield outsized influence on Middle East diplomacy, according to a State Department official, in large part because of how many State Department posts that require presidential nomination sit empty nearly a year into the Trump administration.

Since Trump entered office, White House officials have privately expressed frustration with the career foreign service officers handling Iran policy in the State Department.

In deliberations over the Iran nuclear deal, some officials on the National Security Council have clashed with their counterparts, arguing for a more aggressive stance toward Tehran and for laying out options to abandon the nuclear accord.

One civil servant, Sahar Norouz-Zadeh, was pushed out of a top advisory role on Iran policy at the State Department after conservative media attacked her for having a played a role on Obama's Iran nuclear deal.

The impending appointment of Peek comes amid growing tension between Iran and the United States. Trump informed congress in October he could no longer certify under US law that the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers was in the national interest. The decision has fed speculations that the administration aims to derail the agreement, while European allies see the deal crucial to ensuring international security.

The deal between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China eased sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Deputy assistant secretary roles are filled by a combination of career and political appointees, but notably do not require a presidential appointment or senate confirmation, unlike the higher assistant secretary of state rank.

The White House's refusal to nominate many key State Department roles has become a source of tension between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's team and the White House, two State Department officials say.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Peek worked on Trump's presidential transition team for the State Department from October 2016 to January 2017 and was a columnist for the New York Observer, a news outlet then owned by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, who now serves as a top White House aide.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints