U.S. Ambassador Michael A. McFaul is battling widespread rumors in Moscow that he plans to resign this week from a diplomatic post he has held for fewer than two years.
The whispering campaign among foreign diplomats and Russian officials spilled over into newspapers, radio and websites last week while Mr. McFaul was on vacation in California, where he was a political-science professor at Stanford University.
“I came to Stanford only for a vacation,” he said Friday on Twitter, adding that he would be back in Moscow on Monday.
A report from the Voice of Russia was typical of the media treatment.
“The diplomatic community expects [Mr. McFaul] to announce his resignation on Nov. 16, which will mark the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations,” the report said, referring to the U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933. “McFaul has recently refuted this claim, but the rumor still persists.”
The Russian newspaper Izvestia based its story on Mr. McFaul’s purported resignation on sources in the administration of President Vladimir Putin. U.S.-Russian relations have chilled under the Kremlin strongman.
President Obama officially nominated Mr. McFaul to serve as ambassador to Russia on Sept. 14, 2011. But word of the expected appointment leaked in May of that year and was warmly greeted by Russia’s state-owned media.
Many commentators noted that Mr. Obama was signaling the importance of relations with Russia by selecting Mr. McFaul, who was the top Russia specialist on the National Security Council at the time.
However, the pro-Kremlin media turned on Mr. McFaul within months, especially after he started meeting with members of the anti-Putin political opposition.
At one point, Mr. McFaul’s treatment in the media was so intense that he demanded that Russian reporters “stop propagating myths” about him.
‘FREE THE HOSTAGES’
More than 6,700 Iraqi tribal leaders this week urged President Obama and the U.N. to force Baghdad to free seven Iranian dissidents taken in an assault on a refugee camp more than two months ago.
The letter was signed by Iraqi sheikhs, lawyers, clerics and other professionals in the first sign that Iraqi citizens are angered by the Sept. 1 assault on Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad. Iraqi gunmen killed 52 unarmed Iranian dissidents and took six women and one man as prisoners.
“The hostage taking is a disgrace for us, and we call on the U.S. government to force [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] to free the hostages,” they said in their letter.
They called the attack a “brutal crime” and accused Mr. al-Maliki of trying to “escape responsibility” for the assault.
Mr. Obama met with Mr. al-Maliki on Nov. 1, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration is “very concerned about the fate of the individuals abducted” from Camp Ashraf.
More than 3,000 dissidents earlier were resettled to Camp Liberty, a refugee compound near the Baghdad International Airport. The dissidents are the former armed wing of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, which the Iranian regime has targeted for destruction.
BUFFALOED BY ENGLISH
As if English isn’t hard enough for speakers of other languages to learn, the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan posted this on Twitter:
“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
Yes, it is a grammatically correct sentence. It is an example of words that are spelled or sound alike but have different meanings.
• Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @EmbassyRow.