Reassurance Missions

Rumor has it the White House is getting ready to nominate Dan Shapiro to be the next ambassador to Israel (to succeed the current ambassador, James Cunningham). Shapiro was on the NSC under Bill Clinton and has been an adviser to Obama since 2008. He’s also quite connected in the region—he’s traveled to the Middle East with special envoy George Mitchell quite a bit, he speaks fluent Hebrew and some Arabic, and has a “good relationship” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (so says Politico). 

As chaos in Libya continues, Washington had a bit of trouble yesterday getting its nonessential diplomats and their families out of the country. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley noted that they were ordered to leave the country on Monday, but departures will likely stretch over the next few days. Though the Tripoli airport was open on Tuesday, he said “it is kind of a very challenging circumstance at the airport currently.” And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who is currently on a reassurance mission across the Middle East, was followed there by Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Feltman is scheduled to stop in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and possibly Bahrain.

Somali pirates are back in the news. A group of pirates hijacked a yacht last week and killed four Americans that were on board. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the hijacking a “deplorable act” and issued a call to action: this act “firmly underscores the need for the international community to act more decisively together. We’ve got to have a more effective approach to maintaining security on the seas.”

Also yesterday, Clinton congratulated Bahrain for moving a step closer to openness. The Bahraini king and crown prince have allowed peaceful protests, released political prisoners and offered to talk to opposition leaders. But that’s not the end of it, said Clinton, “These steps will need to be followed by concrete actions and reforms.” She called on the country to “work quickly” to meet the needs of the people and cautioned against violence. Today, taking to the Internet, the secretary of statewill take part in an online social-media dialogue with youth in Egypt. She’ll field questions on Masrawy.com.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House press secretary Jay Carney both had a government shutdown on their minds. Geithner focused on the economic crisis, saying that both the Republicans and Democrats understand “that we're at the point where we don't want to take any risk of jeopardizing the recovery.” Carney said the government is prepared for a shutdown if lawmakers can’t come to a funding resolution.