The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) is an agency within the Department of State that deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. diplomatic relations with Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Regional policy issues that NEA handles include the war in Iraq, Middle East peace, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and political and economic reform.
The United States has been involved in the Middle East since the Cold War in 1949, the Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower administrations were committed to limiting communism around the world and laid the foundations of a U.S Middle Eastern policy. The U.S sought petroleum resources and military bases and sought to deny these resources to the Soviet Union. The U.S also promoted peace and stability in the region in order to push their own objectives. This led to the establishment of the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs in October 3, 1949. The Hoover Commission recommended that certain offices be upgraded to the bureau level. The Department of State developed a Division of Near Eastern Affairs in 1909, which dealt with Central, Southern and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East. However, in 1974 the Department transferred responsibility to Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus to the Bureau of European Affairs. The relations with African Nations also became the reasonability of a New Bureau of African Affairs in 1958, except for several North African nations which became apart of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in 1974. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993 authorized the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs which also established the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on August 24, 1992.
Caught in the Middle East: U.S. Policy toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1945-1961 (by Peter L. Hahn, University of North Carolina Press)
The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs is a key diplomatic office within the Department of State. According to the Bureau, it promotes U.S political and economic interests throughout the region. Instability in the Middle East directly affects U.S political and economic interests, therefore, the promotion of peace and democracy is a key initiative for the NEA. This initiative is seen throughout NEA’s objectives including: helping to rebuild and promote stability in Iraq, helping to resolve the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, counterterrorism and supporting efforts for political and economic reform in the region. NEA works with the Global Coalition Against Terrorism, the US Agency for International Development, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative.
The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs conducts diplomatic affairs with eighteen foreign governments: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
In taking over the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey D. Feltman is no stranger to the issues and key players of the region, having spent much of his Foreign Service career in diplomatic posts in Israel and Lebanon. Feltman is also a polarizing figure, as far as Syria and Hezbollah are concerned, after having dealt with him as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon during the second half of the Bush administration. Feltman was sworn in as assistant secretary on August 18, 2009.
C. David Welch, the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs during George W. Bush's second term, was born in Munich, Germany in 1953 and spent his childhood living in Germany, Brazil, Morocco, Ecuador and Mexico. His parents were also in the Foreign Service. Welch studied at the London School of Economics from 1973-1974. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1975 and he earned his master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.