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Currently, the U.S. has no ambassadors in Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan Kuwait, or the UAE.

It seems that the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea has one foot out the door. Nominated for Deputy Representative at the United Nations in January 2023, Senate confirmation hearings in June 2023.

The U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was just sworn in a few months ago, end of March after the United States had no ambassador there for two years.

It seems like this would be a big issue given the current troubles in Israel which is threatening to expand. What's going on here?

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    While there is no one confirmed as an ambassador, there is certainly a person acting in this capacity. Furthermore, there are often direct channels of communication between the heads of state, which are often preferred in important relationships/situations, where ambassador may be largely confined to ceremonial functions. I would be really surprised, if more than two years into the presidency, the only main contact between Biden and the Israeli government would be through the ambassador. Btw, there is no Syria in your list.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 9:50
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    Ana A. Escrogima was confirmed as ambassador to Oman on 10/17/2023 (request received by the Senate on 1/3/2023). See congress.gov/nomination/118th-congress/48
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 13:49
  • See also npr.org/2023/10/19/1205700419/…
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 0:00

2 Answers 2

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The Senator Rand Paul is blocking the nominations because of a long standing request that he has made. As early as July 17th the Biden administration has made requests to get the nominations with mention of these posts being vacant unless the confirmations happened.

Blinken urges Senate to confirm stalled diplomatic nominees

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has blocked the consideration of dozens of diplomatic nominees, citing his long-standing request for additional information about the origins of Covid.

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging the Senate to confirm more than 60 State Department nominees who have been blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., while he seeks information from the administration about the origins of Covid-19.

“I am again asking for your leadership to swiftly confirm State Department nominees on the floor,” Blinken wrote in a letter Monday obtained by NBC News. “If you are holding one or more nominees, I respectfully ask that you reconsider or work with the Department to find a reasonable and expedited path forward."

"Our foreign policy and national security interests are depending on it,” Blinken added.

Last month, Paul blocked all State Department nominees from clearing Senate confirmation, citing his long-standing request that the department release additional information about the origins of Covid and related government-funded research.

Sixty-two diplomatic nominees are awaiting Senate confirmation, including 38 nominated for ambassador positions. All but three of the ambassadorial nominees are career foreign service workers, and some of their appointments have languished in the Senate for more than 18 months, Blinken told reporters Monday.

“By the end of the summer, we expect Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon will all be without confirmed U.S. ambassadors,” Blinken said, also citing vacant ambassadorial posts in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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    For anyone wondering how a senator can even do this (@gerrit), see this: "Unanimous consent is not necessary ... [but] facilitates approving a nomination quickly. The President sends the Senate thousands of nominations each year .... The Senate routinely considers and approves most of them in large groups (en bloc) by unanimous consent. Absent unanimous consent, the Senate must consider and vote on each nomination separately [which takes time and delays or prevents nomination]". Also, leaders may not want to upset objecting colleagues.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 11:54
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    A few lines explaining how one single Senator can stop the Senate from confirming governmental nominees would probably improve this answer, at least for puzzled non-US readers like myself.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 14:15
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It's worth questioning one of the statements in the question: "It seems like this would be a big issue given the current troubles in Israel which is threatening to expand."

Before the invention of telecommunications, ambassadors (think Metternich and Talleyrand) had a lot of independent individual leeway. The leaders in the capital simply couldn't directly communicate with the leaders in other capitals, or even with their own ambassadors, so their ambassadors had to make decisions. Now, that is not the case, so the office of ambassador has become increasingly ceremonial. Furthermore, for decisions that are made on-the-ground, power has increasingly flowed to the permanent staff. Career diplomats, who are not political appointees, are unfireable and have longer tenure, even when the US presidency flips between parties. Therefore, they are able to build more and deeper connections in their host countries. Permanent staff in the Department of State in DC also build deeper connections with various stakeholders, including with foreign ambassadors located in DC, with influential legislators, and with staff at other important departments (eg Defense, Commerce).

Due to all these factors, US foreign policy is increasingly independent of the actions of ambassadors. In fact, in recent years, US ambassadorships have gone to major donors or semi-retired politicians, more as a prize than as a job.

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    Also, a big percentage of ambassadors get their position in exchange for campaign contributions: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/47948/…. So these people are largely figureheads anyway, not real diplomats. Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 3:49
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    @JonathanReez - That's actually arguably a Good Thing (tm). The Ambassador is supposed to be the go-between for the POTUS and the other nation (in normal times), and the closer your ambassador is to the POTUS, the better that will work. Ideally as a host nation you'd like an ambassador who you know the POTUS will pick up the phone for immediately and listen to when that person calls. Countries judge how important a new POTUS considers them by how close a friend he sends them. In the US system, like it or not, a top donor is going to be one of those people who can demand the President's ear.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 21:59

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