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Biden Names Iran, Ukraine Veterans To Top State Department Posts

Wendy Sherman served under President Barack Obama.
Wendy Sherman served under President Barack Obama.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Wendy Sherman, the country’s lead negotiator of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, to be the No. 2 official at the State Department.

Biden also named retired career diplomat Victoria Nuland, who voiced strong support for the popular uprising that pushed Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014, in the department's third-ranking post.

The Biden transition team announced on January 16 that Sherman, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs under President Barack Obama, was nominated to be deputy secretary of state.

Sherman was the lead U.S. negotiator in talks that led to the agreement between Tehran and world powers under which Tehran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions.

But tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal, arguing that it did not go far enough, and started imposing crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing the country to negotiate a new accord.

Since then, Iran, which claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, has breached parts of the nuclear pact, saying it is no longer bound by it.

Nuland, whose past portfolio at the State Department made her a leading Russia official in the Obama administration, was picked as undersecretary for political affairs.

As assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, she was the lead U.S. diplomat on the ground in Kyiv and Moscow during the pro-democracy uprising in Ukraine and Russia’s subsequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

The seizure of the Ukrainian region by Moscow and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014 have greatly contributed to the dramatic deterioration of relations between Russia and the United States.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to hold a confirmation hearing on January 19 for Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee to be secretary of state.

If confirmed, Sherman and Nuland would serve under him.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Bloomberg