Appointments shuffle: U.S. Middle East democracy envoy leaves for Brookings

Laura Rozen

As United States-Egypt relations threaten to further unravel over Egypt's indictment of 19 American pro-democracy workers, Yahoo News has learned that the Obama administration's top diplomat on Middle East democracy issues has recently left her post.

Tamara Wittes, who has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East democracy issues, has left the State Department to take a top job at the Brookings Institution, administration sources tell Yahoo News. Wittes officially starts March 1st at Brookings as a senior fellow and Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. (Current Saban Center director Ken Pollack is returning to research and writing full-time, associates said.)

Middle East hands say they expect Hady Amr, a senior USAID official, to be tapped to succeed Wittes overseeing the Middle East democracy portfolio at State.

Neither Wittes nor Amr responded to queries from Yahoo News on the moves.

The shuffle comes as several U.S. lawmakers have voiced growing alarm at the Egyptian harassment of U.S. NGO activists, including Sam LaHood, head of the International Republican Institute's Cairo office and son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Several lawmakers indicated the development is likely to lead to Congress blocking the transfer of over $1 billion in U.S. assistance funds that had been slated to go to Egypt this year.

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