Saturday 17 March 2018

Iraq ambassador nominee withdraws over affair with reporter

Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee to be the next ambassador to Iraq
Brett McGurk is Barack Obama's nominee to be the next ambassador to Iraq

Jon Swaine in Washington

THE senior diplomat selected by Barack Obama to be America's ambassador to Iraq, Brett McGurk, has withdrawn his nomination after it emerged that he had an extramarital affair with a reporter.

Mr McGurk, a former senior Iraq adviser to Mr Obama and to former president George W Bush, said he had made the decision “with a heavy heart” following a discussion with his wife, Gina Chon.

Flirtatious emails between Mr McGurk and Ms Chon from 2008, when both were working in Baghdad and married to different spouses, were leaked last month, throwing his nomination into crisis.

Six Republican senators were threatening to block his appointment, citing the disclosure of details of the relationship.

Ms Chon, who worked at the Wall Street Journal, resigned last week after the newspaper said she had broken its in-house rules by sharing details of forthcoming articles with an outsider.

In a long email to friends thanking them for their support, she suggested that a “disgruntled” State Department colleague had posted the emails to the internet to torpedo Mr McGurk’s career. She denied that Mr McGurk had shared "sensitive or classified" information with her.

Mr McGurk said in a letter to Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State: “Iraq urgently needs an ambassador. The country is in the midst of a political crisis, and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation.”

Expressing “regret” over his withdrawal, a White House spokesman thanked Mr McGurk for his “tireless and effective leadership” in Iraq. “There is no doubt that he will be called on again to serve the country,” said the spokesman.

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