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Leaf with then-Secretary of State Kerry in the UAE in 2015. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty

The newly minted senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council, Barbara Leaf, is now expected to be nominated as assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, four sources familiar with the issue tell me.

Behind the scenes: The reasons for the swift job switch aren't clear, but both the White House and Blinken support her appointment in the new role.

  • Blinken wants to fill the regional assistant secretary posts with career foreign service officers, and Leaf served at the department for 25 years, including as ambassador to the UAE, before retiring in 2018.

Why it matters: The assistant secretary for Near East affairs is the most senior U.S. diplomat on the Middle East portfolio.

  • Leaf is expected to handle the administration's efforts to strengthen and broaden the normalization process between Israel and the Arab world.

Worth noting: Leaf speaks Arabic and has years of experience in the Middle East, though most of it comes on issues relating to Iraq and the Gulf.

  • Like other senior Biden administration officials dealing with the Middle East, she has less experience on issues like the Levant and Israel-Palestine.
  • The White House and the State Department declined to comment but didn’t deny the story.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 23, 2021 - World

Blinken asks for Israeli help in facilitating COVID vaccines to the Palestinians

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken asked his Israeli counterpart in their phone call on Monday for Israel to facilitate the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli officials told me.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister’s office announced that Israel has decided to send a "symbolic amount" of vaccines to the Palestinian Authority and to several countries that have asked for assistance.

53 mins ago - World

In photos: The funeral of Prince Philip puts military and royal tradition on display

Prince Philip’s coffin, covered with His Royal Highness’s Personal Standard is carried to the purpose built Land Rover during the Duke of Edinburghe's funeral. Photo: Adrian Dennis/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who died April 9 at age 99, will be laid to rest on Saturday following a funeral service at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The big picture: "His send-off will be highly unusual — in part because coronavirus restrictions meant the ceremony had to be scaled back, but also because it comes just after a very public airing of a family rift," The New York Times writes.

Army officer lawsuit shines light on police treatment of Afro-Latinos

A screenshot from bodycam footage showing U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario during the traffic stop in December, when he was pepper-sprayed.

Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was threatened and pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop that is now under investigation by the Virginia attorney general's office for being “dangerous, unnecessary, unacceptable and avoidable.”

Why it matters: Nazario’s resulting lawsuit against the Windsor, Virginia, police department has brought attention to police treatment of Afro-Latinos, and the lack of data about it despite a growing reckoning over abuses from law enforcement.