The North African nation of Libya, whose successful revolution against long-time dictator Muammar Gadhafi is currently threatened by militia violence and regional separatism, had a new US ambassador with extensive personal experience in Libya. John Christopher Stevens, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who has served two tours of duty in Libya, was nominated by President Obama on January 23. His Senate confirmation hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, 2012. He was murdered in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the first U.S. ambassador to be killed on duty since 1979.
At the State Department in Washington, Stevens has served as a staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (1996), Iran desk officer, and special assistant to the under secretary for political affairs. From late 2006 to May 2007, Stevens was on detail as a Pearson Fellow to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he served as minority staff advisor on Middle East affairs, reporting to Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana).
In June 2007, Stevens was posted for the first time to Libya, serving as deputy chief of mission and later as chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Tripoli until 2009, when he was named director of the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs. In August 2008, in a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks in 2011, Stevens attempted to prepare Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her upcoming visit with Gadhafi, describing him as a “notoriously mercurial” man who “often avoids making eye contact during the initial portion of meetings, and there may be long, uncomfortable periods of silence. Alternatively, he can be an engaging and charming interlocutor.” It was during this visit that Gadhafi revealed his romantic crush on Rice, which she has since described as “weird and a bit creepy.” Indeed, Stevens had warned Rice, “A self-styled intellectual and philosopher, he has been eagerly anticipating for several years the opportunity to share with you his views on global affairs.”
For his second tour in Libya, Stevens was sent to rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, to serve as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council. He arrived on a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 and stayed until November. His mission was to forge stronger links with the Interim Transitional National Council, and gain a better understanding of the various factions fighting the Gadhafi regime. His reports back to Washington were said to have encouraged the U.S. to support the rebel council, which the Obama administration did formally in July 2011.
Stevens speaks Arabic and French.