WASHINGTON (The National) — US president-elect Joe Biden has named Brett McGurk as his White House coordinator for the Middle East, a seasoned hand who worked in the region under three former presidents and is known for his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Biden transition team made the announcement on Friday, granting McGurk a senior White House position as “coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.”
The 47-year-old diplomat is known to be a workaholic and determined policy driver. One person who worked with him in the past described him as a “bulldozer.” He operates with a mission in mind and does everything to accomplish it.
McGurk is no stranger to the Middle East, and he is perhaps one of the very few Washington political figures who have served in the Bush, Obama and Trump presidencies. Under George W Bush, McGurk was the director for Iraq on the National Security Council (2005-2007) and then the special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East affairs on the National Security Council (2007-2009). Under Barack Obama, he served as deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the State Department (2012-2015), where he worked directly with Biden, then the vice president.
McGurk then became the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in 2015, a position he maintained under Trump until the end of 2018, when he resigned. Since then, he has been teaching at Stanford University, and became a trusted voice on the Biden campaign during the presidential race.
A campaign insider told The National that McGurk briefed Biden three times on Syria during the race and then into the transition. His policy views converge with those of Biden, having resigned from the Trump administration after the outgoing president’s call with Erdogan that authorized the partial withdrawal of US troops from Syria and allowed Turkey into the northern part of the country. The decision was criticized by Biden as one that gave ISIS “a new lease on life.”