- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Trump administration’s top diplomat for Syria and the coalition to defeat the Islamic State terror group will retire later this month, the State Department said this week.

James Jeffrey, a U.S. Army veteran, joined the Trump administration in 2018 after a six-year retirement. He formerly served as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq under former President Barack Obama and retired in 2012.

In a statement announcing Mr. Jeffrey’s departure, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the special envoy for achieving “remarkable results in each capacity, advancing our efforts toward a political resolution to the Syrian crisis and creating the conditions for an enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Mr. Pompeo referred to Mr. Jeffrey as an “American patriot of the highest order” and said the department is “better” because of him.

The announcement came on the same day that the Trump administration launched new sanctions on the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

Mr. Jeffrey is known for his role in cease-fire negotiations between Turkey and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces amid an Ankara-launched offensive in October 2019 following Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. Mr. Pompeo also highlighted his efforts to implement the Caesar Act and the defeat of the territorial caliphate of ISIS in Syria.

“Ambassador Jeffrey epitomizes the very best of our diplomatic corps,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Joel Rayburn, who currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Envoy for Syria, will step into Mr. Jeffrey’s role as the special representative for Syria engagement. Ambassador Nathan Sales, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, will serve as Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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