Barbara Leaf, chosen by the Biden administration to lead the State Department’s Middle East desk, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday after more than a year of blocking by Republican lawmakers.
US President Joe Biden appointed Leaf, currently the White House’s senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs, as assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs in April 2021.
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But political wrangling and Republican opposition to Biden’s early foreign policy mistakes have put his confirmation on hold.
Although Leaf is a seasoned diplomat, Republican Senator Ted Cruz has put a blanket hold on all of Biden’s foreign policy nominees because he disagreed with how the Iran nuclear deal was discussed and what was seen as an initial appeasement of Russia by the administration.
Leaf previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and held several other senior positions at the State Department, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Arabian Peninsula and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq.
She also served as the first director of the State Department’s Bureau of Iran Affairs.
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