On January 26, 2021, the US Senate confirmed Antony Blinken to the lead position in President Biden’s cabinet, that of Secretary of State, the head of the country’s State Department, an institution with more than 75 thousand employees, including close to 14 thousand Foreign Service Officers posted in cities around the world.
Blinken was not a controversial pick. The Senate vote to confirm, after all, was 78 to 22.
One of Blinken’s great challenges may be that of refilling headquarters (“Foggy Bottom”) with qualified recruits. During the Trump years, many of those in senior and mid-level ranks left. The far-flung diplomatic service, likewise, experienced a high level of departures and retirements.
The Thing to Know:
In policy terms, one of Secretary Blinken’s great and immediate challenges may be a repair of the shattered relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A little more than a year ago, on President Trump’s orders, a US airstrike killed Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. Within days of that strike, Iran responded with a number of missile attacks against US forces in Iraq. Thankfully, no one was killed although there were many traumatic brain injuries.
Despite such recent history the Biden administration wants to improve reactions with Iran to the point where it can plausibly negotiate for a freeze on that country’s nuclear program.