Oct 10, 2019 - Politics & Policy

O'Brien names new deputy national security adviser

National security adviser Robert O'Brien

O'Brien. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien is elevating Victoria Coates, his senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, to serve as deputy national security adviser, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move — on the same day O'Brien is holding an all-hands meeting with his staff to lay out his approach — formalizes his prioritization of the region just weeks into his tenure as John Bolton's replacement.

  • It also follows Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria and takes place amid a reduction, or "right-sizing," of the National Security Council staff overall.

Details: Coates' responsibilities will focus on the Middle East and North Africa, a region that includes Syria, Iran, Gulf states, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  • She will divide responsibilities with Matt Pottinger, the NSC's Asia expert, whom O'Brien elevated last month as deputy national security adviser.
  • Both have served since the start of the Trump administration.
  • The combined moves reflect Trump's focus on China and the Middle East.
  • Coates' elevation makes her one of a few high-ranking women in the administration outside the Cabinet, along with CIA Director Gina Haspel and Energy Undersecretary Lisa Gordon-Hagerty.
  • Coates has previously worked for Donald Rumsfeld, Rick Perry and Ted Cruz. She is also an art historian.

What they're saying: Jared Kushner calls Coates "a great partner" and says they will "continue working closely together."

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