on Friday nominated David Satterfield to be ambassador to Turkey, taking the first step toward filling a key State Department post in the Middle East.
Satterfield has been the acting assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs since 2017. He was special advisor to the secretary of State for Libya in 2014 and worked in the U.S. embassy in Cairo from 2013-2014. He’s also been posted in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The nomination could help Trump streamline communication with Turkish officials after several months of acrimony between Washington and Ankara.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey escalated last year as the countries remained locked in a bitter trade war, while Trump last month threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria.
The U.S. and Turkey are allies in the fight against ISIS, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly promised Trump in December that Turkey would eliminate the remaining pockets of ISIS fighters if the U.S. withdrew from Syria. The president announced a military draw down from Syria shortly after the conversation.
The move sparked bipartisan backlash and is believed to have contributed to the resignations of both Defense Secretary James Mattis
and envoy to coalition forces Brett McGurk. Legislators and military officials expressed concern that Erdoğan’s promise was simply a pretext to eliminate U.S.-linked Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, groups Ankara considers terrorist.
Despite Turkey’s outsized role in Trump’s foreign policy, there has been no formal ambassador to the country since 2017. Jeffrey Hovenier assumed the duties of Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara in August 2018.
Trump nominates ambassador to Turkey