Rotary Club of Portland Maine USA

Posted by Bob Martin

Ambassador Laurence Pope is a retired American diplomat and is the author of several books, including François de Callieres: A Political Life (2010), a biography of the first proponent of professional diplomacy. He was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996.

In the wake of the tragic murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens during a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned to Ambassador Pope to serve as Washington’s man in Tripoli, an appointment that did not require Senate confirmation.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton nominated Pope as ambassador to Kuwait, but his nomination was derailed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and other conservative Republicans because Gen. Zinni had criticized their support of Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi politician opposed to dictator Saddam Hussein. According to Pope, Helms’s aide Danielle Pletka told him he would not even get a hearing unless he agreed to testify on his advice to Zinni regarding Chalabi. Pope retired from the State Department on October 2, 2000, after 31 years of service rather than expose his confidential advice.

Two years later, during the ramp-up to the U.S. War on Iraq, Chalabi was responsible for supplying the George W. Bush administration much of the false information alleging that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Ambassador Laurence Pope served in the foreign service and diplomatic corps for thirty-one years, in one the most important, and difficult, regions in the world – the Middle East, as well as North Africa, and did so during some of more challenging periods of contemporary history. 

He is considered a top expert in the region. After retirement, he served for several months as the Staff Director in Jerusalem for the International Committee on Middle East Peace, led by former Senator George Mitchell, and after 9/11, he was appointed Senior Advisor for Arab Affairs to the United Nations.

A graduate of Bowdoin College, Pope also had advanced studies at Princeton University and is a graduate of the U.S. Department of State Senior Seminar, a Senior Fellow at the Armed Forces Staff College. He speaks Arabic and French, and resides in Portland, with his wife Betsy. Laurence Pope is the eldest son of Major Everett P. Pope, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944 for his conspicuous courage at Pelelieu.