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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.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.