Obama Pick for Envoy to Iraq Quits over E-Mails

By Baker, Peter | International Herald Tribune, June 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

Obama Pick for Envoy to Iraq Quits over E-Mails


Baker, Peter, International Herald Tribune


E-mails he wrote to to his journalist girlfriend in 2008 fueled opposition to his confirmation.

President Barack Obama's nominee for ambassador to Iraq has withdrawn from consideration after a series of racy e-mails fueled Republican opposition and eroded Democratic support for his confirmation in the Senate.

Brett H. McGurk, Mr. Obama's choice for envoy to Iraq, said Monday that he was stepping aside because it was important for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to have a permanent new leader soon. With summer recess approaching, a confirmation fight over Mr. McGurk could have dragged on for weeks or months.

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

In a separate e-mail to friends, he wrote that pulling out was "one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made," but he vowed to stay involved.

Mr. McGurk's withdrawal was a blow to the White House as it sought to manage the next phase in Iraq's postwar development. Since pulling out U.S. troops in December after nearly eight years of combat, Mr. Obama has been trying to preserve a fragile stability in Iraq amid sporadic violence and concerns about Iranian influence. The White House has been worried that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al- Maliki might develop into another strongman.

What tripped up Mr. McGurk, however, was an affair with a reporter covering the U.S. venture.

E-mails posted on a Web site early this month after his nomination made clear that while working for President George W. Bush in Baghdad in 2008, Mr. McGurk engaged in a romantic relationship with Gina Chon of The Wall Street Journal. The two married this spring, but Ms. Chon resigned last week from The Journal, which said she had inappropriately shown unpublished articles to Mr. …

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