THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
BY JAMAL AL-MUSSAWI
n May 2014, the State Department welcomed one of its newestemployee affinity groups, Arab-Americans in Foreign Affairs Agencies. Led by an interagency executive board comprised of
Civil and Foreign Service professionals, AAIFAA has drawn more
than 100 members from throughout the foreign affairs community
in its first year alone.
AAIFAA’s goal is twofold: to expand workplace diversity and
serve as a resource for senior leaders interested in enhancing the
department’s relationship with Arab-Americans. Deputy Secre-
taries Antony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom and Director
General Arnold Chacón have personally welcomed the creation of
Open to all foreign affairs professionals regardless of their
hiring status or background, AAIFAA promotes and applies the
cultural, linguistic, personal and professional assets that Arab-
Americans and those with an affinity toward the Arab world share.
As with other ethnic- and minority-based employee groups, it
is also a forum for sharing ideas and experiences among Arab-
Americans throughout the interagency community.
To carry out its mission, AAIFAA participates in employee
recruitment drives, organizes brown-bag discussions with Civil
and Foreign Service personnel, and meets with other employee
affinity groups (EAGs). Through interactive meetings, A-100
gatherings and discussions with the Office of Civil Rights, AAIFAA
also assists diplomats-in-residence, human resources profession-
als and Foreign Service retirees to inform prospective Civil Service
and Foreign Service employees about the work of the department
and the other foreign affairs agencies.
At State, AAIFAA is working with bureaus to
attract a diverse selection of bidders by demon-
strating how particular sets of skills can adapt to assignments in a
variety of regions, fields and specialties. For example, the Bureau
of Near Eastern Affairs’ Iran and Middle East watchers—reporting
officers based in Western European capitals—are among many
Focusing on both professional development and social net-
working, AAIFAA is also partnering with senior Arab-American
and other leaders at the State Department and beyond to mentor
staff seeking career advice. Distinguished ambassadors like
Philip Habib, Susan Ziadeh and Ted Kattouf demonstrate Arab-
American contributions to American diplomacy in areas of critical
national interest. Following in their footsteps, AAIFAA seeks to
harness the talent of the next generation of American diplomats.
Since its inception, AAIFAA has experienced rapid growth,
thanks to its conviction that fostering and enhancing workplace
diversity is not only a common goal across the department, but a
necessity to make the foreign affairs community more representa-
tive of the diverse nation we represent, both at home and abroad.
AAIFAA stands ready to continue paving the path toward greater
diversity with its EAG partners, senior departmental leadership
and anyone who supports that goal.
As a direct result of these efforts, the foreign affairs com-
munity has created more innovative and effective policymaking
and advocacy strategies. AAIFAA’s work is essential to realize the
diversity-enhancement goals of the department, the federal gov-
ernment and our increasingly multicultural nation.
Jamal Al-Mussawi was born in Basrah, Iraq, and grew
up in Egypt and California. He joined the Foreign
Service as a political-coned officer in 2005, follow-
ing three years as a contractor in the Foreign Service
Institute’s political training division. He has served in
Bishkek, Bridgetown and Bratislava, and is now studying Arabic at
FSI in preparation for his assignment as the political/economic sec-
tion chief in Muscat in July. He is the founder of Arab-Americans in
Foreign Affairs Agencies.
Deputy Secretary of Management and
Resources Heather Higginbottom (center)
opened AAIFAA’s first social event on Feb. 26.
To her right, in the foreground, are AAIFAA
Interim Chair Khulood Kandil, AAIFAA Interim
Vice Chair Dr. Charles Kiamie III and AAIFAA
Founder Jamal Al-Mussawi.
in Foreign Affairs