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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."

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
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Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 24 mins ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.

Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI director

FBI Director Christopher Wray at a virtual DOJ news briefing on Oct. 28. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as director of the FBI and has "confidence in the job he is doing," White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in a tweet Thursday.

The big picture: Wray, who was nominated by former President Trump in 2017 after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, came under heavy criticism from Trump and his allies over the past year.