The Cable

Secretary Clinton to the Middle East, envoy Mitchell already there

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey from March 1–7, 2009, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday.

A source told The Cable that among the entourage accompanying Clinton on her first Middle East trip as Secretary of State will be the NSC senior director on the Middle East and North Africa, Daniel Shapiro.

Currently, U.S. special envoy on the Arab-Israeli conflict George Mitchell is on his second trip to the region since becoming envoy, visiting Turkey, Israel, the U.A.E., etc. He is accompanied by NSC executive secretary Mara Rudman. Mitchell and Clinton will meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for a Gaza donors' conference beginning on Monday.

More details on Clinton's forthcoming trip from Wood's statement today:

Secretary Clinton will attend and participate in the donor’s conference for Gaza recovery hosted by Egypt on March 2. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and other high-level representatives will be in attendance in Sharm el-Sheikh with the Secretary during the conference. The Secretary also will meet with senior Egyptian officials.

After the conference, Secretary Clinton will travel to Israel and the Palestinian Territories and meet with senior officials.

In Brussels, Secretary Clinton will attend an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on March 5, where she will consult with Allies and seek consensus on the approach to the upcoming NATO Summit. The Secretary also will attend a meeting with foreign ministers from all NATO and EU countries, as well as Switzerland, to further boost transatlantic relations.

Also in Brussels, Secretary Clinton will meet separately with EU officials.

In Geneva, Secretary Clinton will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest, including possibilities for a follow-on agreement to START, and deepening our cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan.

While in Ankara Secretary Clinton will meet with key Turkish officials.

The Cable

Freeman in as NIC chairman

The Director of National Intelligence notified Congress today that he has selected former diplomat Chas Freeman to serve as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Politico reports. Here is the notification to Congress (.pdf).

A spokesman for the office of the DNI said they would have a statement shortly.

UPDATE: ODNI news release:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair has selected Charles W. Freeman, Jr. to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). As Chairman, Ambassador Freeman will be responsible for overseeing the production of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and other Intelligence Community (IC) analytic products.

“Ambassador Freeman is a distinguished public servant who brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense, diplomacy and intelligence that are absolutely critical to understanding today’s threats and how to address them,” Director Blair said. “The country is fortunate that Ambassador Freeman has agreed to return to public service and contribute his remarkable skills toward further strengthening the Intelligence Community’s analytical process.”

As a former United States negotiator, Freeman has worked with more than 100 foreign governments in East and South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and both Western and Eastern Europe. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Bangkok and Beijing, Director of Chinese Affairs at U.S. State Department, and Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Institute of National Security Studies. Freeman received his J.D. from the Harvard School of Law.

Ambassador Freeman will report to DNI Blair and the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, Dr. Peter Lavoy.