U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday that he plans to nominate William Burns to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Burns, who led the U.S. delegation in covert talks with Iran in 2013 when he was U.S. deputy secretary of state, had a 33-year diplomatic career under Democratic and Republican administrations.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which the Democrats will control with a 50-50 split with U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote, Burns would succeed Gina Haspel, who became the first female leader of the CIA in 2018.

Burns, currently the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote a May 2019 opinion piece in The Washington Post slamming the Trump administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before its peace plan to resolve it was released the following January, saying that the White House’s approach “appear[s] to be animated by a set of terminally flawed assumptions and illusions.”

In August, however, Burns wrote that Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing ties was “a significant achievement, with considerable potential if—and it’s a big if—it is tethered to more serious diplomacy on either the Israeli-Palestinian issue or the challenge posed by Iran.”

Burns criticized the Trump administration’s effort to snapback U.N. sanctions against Iran as “not only silly, but guaranteed to further embarrass and isolate the U.S., further alienate our closest allies, and further risk collisions with Tehran.” Those sanctions were ultimately snapped back after the United States failed to get the U.N. Security Council to indefinitely extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran.

During his time in the George W. Bush administration, he helped broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians in 2001.


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