The Cable

Campbell and Flournoy to join CNAS board

Kurt Campbell, one of the key architects of the Obama administration's Asia "pivot," has left the State Department and is set to be the next chairman of the board at the Center for a New American Security, the think tank he helped found in 2008, multiple sources told The Cable.

Campbell will be joined on the CNAS board by Michèle Flournoy, the former undersecretary of defense for policy, who was the founding president of CNAS when Campbell was the founding CEO. Campbell's last day at State was last Friday. Flournoy attended his goodbye party in the State Department's diplomatic reception room, where a hot topic of discussion was who will replace Campbell as the State Department's top Asia official.

The smart money is on National Security Staff Senior Director for Asia Danny Russel, whom the White House is said to favor, according to administration sources. Kerry is said to prefer someone with more name recognition in the region, such as Harvard Professor Joe Nye, these sources said (Nye told FP, "I haven't heard anything from him."). Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Affairs Mark Lippert, a longtime friend of President Barack Obama, is also a real possibility for the job and is said to want to move over to State.

The issue is now a matter of negotiation between the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry's team, and it is wrapped up in the negotiations over several other top State Department positions that are currently in flux. Interviews for the job have not yet been completed, we're told, and therefore it could be some time before a decision is made.

Several other names are being discussed for Campbell's job. Here are some identified by Chris Nelson in the Friday edition of the Nelson Report, an insider's newsletter on Asia policy:

"We were told authoritatively yesterday that Kerry is looking at former Amb. to S. Korea Kathy Stephens, and UCSD prof. Susan Shirk, a China DAS under then-Sec. Albright during Clinton 2. And/but...similarly placed sources feel that Kerry's list includes Brookings' Richard Bush, former AIT president and NIO for Asia at the CIA, former DOD DAS, now Senate Foreign Relations staffer Michael Schiffer, and the staffer Michael replaced, Frank Januzzi, now running Amnesty International's DC office."

We've also heard that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim is under consideration. Kim served as the State Department's special envoy to the six party talks on North Korea's nuclear program before he became America's envoy to Seoul.

In the meantime, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joe Yun will take over as acting assistant secretary until a replacement for Campbell is named. 

In addition to chairing the board at CNAS, Campbell is embarking on several additional projects. He is negotiating the details of a new book, tentatively entitled, The Pivot, which is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Asia "rebalancing" policy he helped shape and implement over the last four years. The administration doesn't like the term "pivot" because it implies a turn away from the Middle East and Europe.

Campbell has also started a new consulting firm called The Asia Group, and has brought along his former deputy assistant secretary Nirav Patel to be the firm's chief operating officer. The firm will have offices in Washington and Singapore and will focus both on bringing U.S. businesses into Asian markets and bringing Asian businesses to the United States. 

"A key focus area of the first four years of this administration has been the rebalance towards Asia and a key piece of all of that has been helping American businesses enter new markets and we want to be part of that," Patel told The Cable. "Also, Asian businesses are seeking to invest in the U.S. and that's the part of the story that hasn't been effectively told."

Patel has been replaced in his DAS position by Michael Fuchs, who formerly worked for Jake Sullivan in the Policy Planning shop at State. 

Meanwhile, David Wade has been selected as Kerry's chief of staff and Bill Danvers is now deputy chief of staff, according to Mike Allen's Playbook. Wade was Kerry's chief of staff in his personal office and Danvers was Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff director. Heather Higginbottom, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, will be State Department counselor, Allen reported.

"John Kerry's trek from failed 2004 presidential contender to secretary of state wasn't made alone. He was accompanied, supported, and guided every step of the way by his past and current chief of staff, David Wade. Wade was originally hired by Kerry as a speechwriter. Now he is overseeing all policy development, speechmaking, travel, and personnel for the nation's chief diplomat, with the singular State Department acronym of ‘COS,'" Allen reported. "Wade also brings foreign policy chops to his new role by dint of Kerry's tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose work Wade also supervised. Quite simply, he is the secretary's closest confidante."

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The Cable

Kerry: Administration ‘evaluating’ next steps on Syria violence

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, the first foreign minister to visit Kerry since he became America's top diplomat.

"He was one of the first calls that I made after I officially came into the building and started and was sworn in, and he is my first guest as foreign minister," Kerry said at his first joint press conference, held in the Treaty Room on the 7th floor of State's Truman Building. "I hope everybody does understand that this is meant to underscore the extraordinary strength of the relationship that we have, and we're very, very grateful for it."

Kerry declined to speak in French, saying he had to brush up on his language skills first, but gave remarks on the ongoing crisis in Syria and next month's nuclear talks with Iran in Astana, Kazakhstan.

On Syria, Kerry declined to say whether he was in the loop last summer when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA Director David Petraeus pushed for a plan to arm the Syrian opposition, a plan that the White House rejected. On Thursday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified that he and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (whose last day was today) also supported that plan.

"This is a new administration now, the president's second term. I'm a new secretary of state, and we're going forwards from this point," Kerry said. "My sense right now is that everybody in the administration, and people in other parts of the world, are deeply distressed by the continued violence in Syria."

Kerry indicated that a new discussion on Syria was taking place inside the administration, but he didn't tip his hand as to which side of that discussion he was on.

"So I'd just say to you that we're evaluating. We are evaluating now. We're taking a look at what steps, if any, diplomatic, particularly, might be able to be taken in an effort to try to reduce that violence and deal with the situation. And when we are prepared, as I tell you, you'll be the first to know, I'm sure. We'll let you know. We're going to evaluate this as we go forward," he said.

Kerry emphasized that Iran still has an opportunity to prove that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, and he urged Iranian leaders to negotiate the terms under which that claim can be verified by the international community.

"We've made our position clear. The choice is really ultimately up to Iran. The international community is ready to respond if Iran comes prepared to talk real substance and to address the concerns, which could not be more clear, about their nuclear program. If they don't, then they will choose to leave themselves more isolated. That's the choice," he said.

But Kerry added that if Iran chooses not to do what's necessary to assure the international community it is not developing a nuclear weapon, President Barack Obama retains the right to use military force to prevent that from becoming a reality.

"And the administration, the president, has made it clear that his preference is to have a diplomatic solution. But if he cannot get there, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon," said Kerry.

Baird, in his remarks, focused on two bilateral issues important to Canada: the new bridge Canada wants to build to connect to Michigan, called the Detroit River International Crossing, and the Keystone XL pipeline, which stands in limbo until the State Department decides whether the project can move forward.

Kerry said that he will respect the ongoing process of evaluating the environmental effects of the pipeline project and promised that an announcement is on the way.

"I can guarantee you that [the process] will be fair and transparent, accountable. And we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term. I don't want to pin down precisely when, but I assure you in the near term. I'm not going to go into the merits of it here today," he said.

Kerry seemed comfortable but cautious at his first engagement with the State Department press corps. Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland limited the press conference to only one question from each country. Kerry cracked a joke when CNN's Elise Labott squeezed in three.

"Let me see, that was three questions, if I counted correctly. But well done. I'm impressed," he said. "Next time you'll have to ask her to ask a half a question, or a quarter."

Nuland joked before the press conference that the podiums were set much higher than when Clinton stood in the same spot.

"I guess change has really arrived," she said.

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