NEWS

Biden Picks Veteran Diplomat, William Burns As CIA Director

US President-elect Joe Biden has chosen William Burns, who served for three decades as a diplomat, to be his CIA director.

Mr Burns led the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran to reach a landmark nuclear deal in 2015. Before that he served as ambassador to Russia.

He is currently the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an international think-tank.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first career diplomat in the post.

The president-elect, who takes office on 20 January, has asked Congress to confirm his national security team as close to his inauguration as possible.

Mr Burns retired from the US Foreign Service in 2014 after a 33-year career at the state department, serving under both Republican and Democratic presidents. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador.

In a statement, Mr Biden said: “[Mr Burns] shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect.”

Mr Burns served as deputy secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, ambassador to Russia and Jordan, and assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Recently, he has written articles critical of the Trump administration’s policies and, last August, warned about the risks of President Donald Trump not accepting an election defeat.

“If he loses, I doubt that he will suddenly embrace the traditional bipartisan commitment to effective transitions. At best, he’ll be consumed by efforts to rationalise his defeat and paint the election as rigged; at worst, he’ll seek to contest or undermine the result,” he wrote in the Atlantic. 

Mr Biden’s priorities in national security and foreign policy include plans to revive the Iran nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018. He has also nominated:

  • General Lloyd Austin as his defence secretary: the 67-year-old who retired in 2016 would become the first African-American to lead the Pentagon
  • Antony Blinken as secretary of state: the 58-year-old’s work relationship with Mr Biden goes back nearly 20 years
  • Jake Sullivan as national security adviser: he is a former state department official and Hillary Clinton aide who also played a key role in negotiating the Iranian deal

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