Robert Stephen Beecroft, a BYU grad, was recently selected by President Obama to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
“This president picks people on their qualifications, not on the politics of it,” Jim Dabakis, chair of the Utah State Democratic Party said. “We are thrilled to have somebody, a part of our community, serve at such a high level position.”
Middle Eastern relations run deep for Beecroft. He has worked in embassies in Saudi Arabia and Syria and was more recently sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Jordan in 2008, according to his profile on the state department’s website.
Beecroft was transferred from Jordan to Iraq last summer where he was positioned as deputy chief of mission and later as charge d’affaires.
Beecroft served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Venezuela. He received his law degree from the University of California–Berkeley after receiving his BA degree from BYU. His wife received both her undergraduate and law degree from BYU, according to a press release.
President Obama’s first pick for the ambassador position, Brett H. McGurk, withdrew his nomination this June after an exchange of scandalous emails with a Wall Street Journal reporter depleted democratic support.
Beecroft’s new position comes during the peak of anti-American protests in the Middle East, raising questions of safety.
“The state department is increasing what were already stringent security measures for not just ambassadors but our embassy personnel around the world,” Dabakis said, in response to the recent murder of America-Libya ambassador Chris Stevens.
Last December, the last of American troops rolled out of Iraq after nearly nine years of violence. Iraq’s current state holds nearly half a million displaced persons, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Add to that severe infrastructural damage and fragile relations with the U.S., and it creates a unique situation for Beecroft.
“We are in a very delicate moment in Iraq,” Daren Hawkins, political science professor said. “This is a country that has yet to fully recover from all of the violence. It is a country with a shaky government. It is a country that has some unfriendly neighbors. It is a country that wants to demonstrate some independence from the United States but the United States would like to keep within its sphere of influence.”
But the task at hand has not diminished students’ hope in Ambassador Beecroft.
“This is absolutely inspiring,” said Brendon Fraga, a pre-law student from Draper, Utah, “to know that even coming from a place as obscure as BYU in the middle-of-nowhere Utah, education can take you as far as becoming an ambassador of Iraq. It’s inspiring. It’s compelling. It makes me want to do better in school and makes me want to pursue my goals and dreams.”
The Utah Democrats are excited about Beecroft’s appointment and believe his years of experience in embassies of the Middle East have prepared him well for this new undertaking.
“Ambassador Beecroft is a great choice for this critical diplomatic post,” Dabakis said in the press release.