Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly arrived in Beirut on Monday afternoon to take up her post as the successor to Michele Sison, National News Agency (NNA) reported on Monday.
President Barack Obama nominated Maura Connelly to be U.S. ambassador to Lebanon on June 3, 2010, and her Senate confirmation hearing was held on July 20. Connelly was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. At her confirmation hearing, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez suggested that Connelly’s childhood experience in rough and tumble northern New Jersey would be an asset she can draw upon in Beirut: “Anyone who was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, could probably do very well in Lebanon,” Menendez quipped. Connelly was confirmed by the US Senate on August 6.
Connelly earned a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Masters in National Security Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. She began her career in government service during high school when she was a Senate page, and later worked as an elevator operator in the Capitol building while a student at Georgetown.
Connelly joined the State Department ca. 1985. Much, though by no means all, of Connelly’s Foreign Service career has been spent on the Middle East. In the late 1980s, she served as the Political Officer and Acting Head of the Political Section at the U.S. embassy in Algiers, Algeria. She was the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem between 1993 and 1996. Other overseas posts included Jordan and South Africa. She was also the Deputy Counselor for Political Affairs for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Most recently, Connelly served the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003, as the Political Minister-Counselor for the U.S. Embassy in London, U.K., between 2005 and 2008. From 2008 to July 2009, she served as the Chargé d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, which made her the ranking U.S. diplomat in the country.
From July 2009 to July 2010, she was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, working under Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, himself a former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon and an expert on Lebanon.