Intelligence Czar John Negroponte will leave his post to become Deputy Secretary of State, the State Department’s second-ranking official.
It is too early to know why Negroponte is accepting a demotion, but speculation runs along some familiar lines.
The New York Times suggests that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has essentially recruited Negroponte for the job:
[A]dministration officials say Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been trying to recruit him to bring more Iraq expertise to her office…
Negroponte’s move to the State Department has been rumored for months. Rice was pushing to bring Negroponte in as her deputy…
The move may be a sign that the administration is looking for more sweeping changes to its Iraq strategy…
It might be more accurate to say Rice is trying to add more “heft” to her office in the hope of winning a factional battle for the direction of Iraq strategy.
Negroponte is going to State in order to help Rice battle Cheney, and perhaps prepare to take over the reins should Rice depart Foggy Bottom.
Here is one account of the factional battle lines from a December 5, 2006 Insight Magazine article:
The White House has been examining a proposal by James Baker to launch a Middle East peace effort without Israel.
The peace effort would begin with a U.S.-organized conference, dubbed Madrid-2, and contain such U.S. adversaries as Iran and Syria….
“As Baker sees this, the conference would provide a unique opportunity for the United States to strike a deal without Jewish pressure,” an official said. “This has become the most hottest proposal examined by the foreign policy people over the last month.”
Officials said Mr. Baker’s proposal, reflected in the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, has been supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. The most controversial element in the proposal, they said, was Mr. Baker’s recommendation for the United States to woo Iran and Syria.
The “heft” in all this is to take on Cheney. Seymour Hersh reported in his late November 2006 New Yorker essay, “The Next Act“:
A retired four-star general who worked closely with the first Bush Administration told me that… [for] Scowcroft, Baker, the elder Bush… [the issue] is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice”—the Secretary of State—“a chance to perform.” The combination of Scowcroft, Baker, and the senior Bush working together is, the general added, “tough enough to take on Cheney. One guy can’t do it.”
It seems like Negroponte’s new job is to help take on Cheney.