Pres. Barack Obama appoints LDS diplomat Robert Stephen Beecroft as ambassador to Iraq

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15 2012 2:41 p.m. MDT

William Burns, left, under-secretary of state for political affairs, and Michael H. Posner, center, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, present Ambassador Robert Stephen Beecroft the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award in 2011. Beecroft was recently nominated by President Barack Obama to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

U.S. Department of State

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President Barack Obama has announced the nomination of Robert Stephen Beecroft as the new ambassador of the United States to Iraq, the New York Times reported.

Beecroft, a career diplomat, BYU graduate and returned LDS missionary, has been working as deputy chief of mission under Ambassador James Jeffrey at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. When Jeffrey left the ambassadorship on June 1, Beecroft became chargé d'affaires at the embassy and was expected to serve in that capacity until the arrival of Brett H. McGurk, who was originally nominated by Obama to serve as ambassador to Iraq.

But McGurk "was forced to withdraw after risqué emails between him and a Wall Street Journal reporter (whom he later married) surfaced online," Politico reported. "The reporter resigned from her position at the Journal, while McGurk ended his attempts to win Senate confirmation after Republicans publicly expressed doubt about his fitness for the job."

The Times indicated that since Beecroft is already in Baghdad, he is therefore "already set to run the embassy temporarily until the Senate votes on his confirmation."

Which may take some time. According to The Cable, "the standoff between Rand Paul and the Senate leadership over the Kentucky lawmaker's demand for a vote cutting off aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan is threatening to derail the confirmations of new ambassadors to Iraq and Pakistan before the upper chamber leaves town."

"My position is not one penny more for Libya or Egypt or Pakistan until they act like our allies," Sen. Paul said. "Some say we've got to keep sending it. Fine. Let's send it when they act like our allies. Let's send it when they start behaving like civilized nations and come to their senses."

Said a sarcastic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "I just think my friend from Kentucky maybe should have run for secretary of state rather than the Senate."

With Beecroft already in Baghdad and running the embassy, however, his confirmation is less pressing than it would otherwise be. More pressing, according to the Times, is the fact that the announcement of his appointment to the ambassadorship comes "at a delicate moment in Iraq as the country's Sunni vice president was convicted of murder and sentenced to death and a wave of insurgent attacks threaten to deepen a political crisis."

Beecroft, who holds a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, has devoted most of his professional life to public service. Following his education, his full-time LDS mission to Venezuela and a brief period of time practicing law in San Francisco, he joined the Foreign Service specializing in Middle East affairs. He has served in a variety of assignments, including service in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, as executive assistant to two U.S. secretaries of state (Colin Powell and Condelezza Rice) and as ambassador to Jordan.

He has received the Department of State's Distinguished Honor Award, and last year he received the department's prestigious Diplomacy for Human Rights Award for his work in furthering human rights and democracy in Jordan.

Beecroft credits his parents for teaching him service and compassion for others, long the hallmark of his public service. He told the LDS Church News last year that when he was in seventh grade his junior high school was integrated.

"My dad told me that some people in the community had spoken out against integration," he said. "He explained that it was our responsibility as members of the (LDS) Church and as moral individuals to help people. African Americans had long been disadvantaged and discriminated against, so I should look for ways to welcome them and, if necessary, help stand up for them, even if I had to do so physically."

Beecroft and his wife, Anne, have four children.

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