A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, 1931-2014

Robert B. Oakley
Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, whose long and distinguished diplomatic career was often spent in trouble spots such as Pakistan and Somalia, has passed away at the age of 83. He held a range of posts during his career in the State Department, the National Security Council, and as a Special Envoy.

Joining the Foreign Service in 1957, his first posting was to Khartoum. He also served in Abidjan, Saigon, Paris, and Beirut. He was Senior Director for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Security Council. In 1979 he was named Ambassador to Zaire, and in 1982 Ambassador to Somalia.

In 1984 he became Director of the State Department Office for Combating Terrorism, and in 1987 he returned to the NSC as Assistant to the President for the Middle East and South Asia.

In 1988, when US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel died in the same air crash that killed Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq, he was named Ambassador to Pakistan at a moment of crisis.

Oakley retired from the Foreign Service in 1991, and served at the US Institute for Peace but he was soon back at work as in late 1992, President George H.W. Bush named him Special Envoy to Somalia. He served in the same capacity for Bill Clinton in 1993-94.

He later served at National Defense University. With his wife Phyllis, who held senior State Department positions as well (including Spokesman), and who survives him, he was a familiar and approachable figure in the foreign policy community here in Washington.

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