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Gordon Gray III

Gordon Gray. Official U.S. State Department photo

Gordon Gray III is the Chief Operating Officer of the Center for American Progress, a research and advocacy institute in Washington, DC.[1] He is a retired United States Foreign Service Officer and former career member of the Senior Foreign Service who attained the rank of Minister-Counselor. He joined the faculty of the National War College in July 2012[2] and held the positions of Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor from June 2014 to June 2015.[3] He was the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, having been sworn in on August 20, 2009 after his appointment to the position by President Barack Obama, and served until July 5, 2012.[4][5]

He retired from the Foreign Service in June 2015. In July 2015, he joined the National U.S.–Arab Chamber of Commerce as the organization's Executive Vice President, serving in that capacity until August 2017.[6][7]


Gordon Gray III was born in New York City in 1956. He attended Yale University, receiving his B.A. in Political Science in 1978. Gray later served in the Peace Corps in Oued Zem, Morocco until 1980. He then attended Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1982 with an M.A. in International Affairs.[4] In 2015, he received an honorary M.S. degree from the National Defense University.[8]

Gray began his Foreign Service career in 1982. His first tours of duty included postings in Karachi, Amman, and Ottawa. He was appointed as Director of Counterterrorism Regional Affairs Office at the United States Department of State in 1996 and held the post until 1999. As Director for Regional Affairs in the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism before 9/11, Gray predicted the rising threat of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.[9] He was then appointed as the Director of the Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations from 1999 to 2001. Between 2002 and 2005, Gray served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. While holding this post, Gray became the first diplomat to visit Tripoli in 2004.[4]

In 2005, Gray served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the State Department, a position which he held until mid-2008. He then spent eleven months in Baghdad as a Senior Advisor to then-U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. There, Gray spent much of his time traveling in the south of Iraq assessing the reestablishment of governance and infrastructure in the southern provinces.[10]

Gray was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Tunisia in August 2009, assuming his post the following month.[11]

Turmoil in TunisiaEdit

Gray's tenure has seen him involved in two diplomatic incidents relating to Tunisia. During the release of classified State Department cables by WikiLeaks, it was revealed that Gray criticized the Tunisian government's human rights record and its policies relating to press freedom. Additionally, he was one of the first to identify Sakher El Materi, a Tunisian businessman and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's son-in-law, as a potential beneficiary of the ancien regime's nepotism.[12] Gray had been, however, an early and consistent proponent of democracy in Tunisia.[13] Indeed, he is credited with informing former President Ben Ali not only that he needed to relinquish power, but that he could not count United States for exile.[14] In WikiLeaks cables, Gray has also commented on the political aptitude of Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi,[15] who temporarily assumed control of the country following former President Ben Ali's departure, stating that "it appears Ben Ali has come to view him as indispensable." During protests which contributed to President Ben Ali's departure, Gray was summoned to explain American encouragement of political demonstration and the American response stating that Tunisia had used excessive violence against protesters.[16] U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley stated that the purpose of Gray's meeting was to express the Obama administration's wariness toward said violence, with 27 protesters having died before the meeting took place.[17] The U.S. response to Tunisian riots was poorly received, and as such it was Gray who was called to explain the reasons for the Obama administration's condemnation of the Ben Ali regime's handling of the unrest.[18] In regard to the Tunisian political upheaval in January 2011, Ambassador Gray has come out calling for both protesters and government forces alike to act with responsibility, noting that democratic demonstrations are a "new phenomenon" in Tunisia[19]

In May 2012, Gray criticized a Tunisian court's charges of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” against TV magnate Nabil Karoui, who aired a French film which violates a prohibition in Islam by showing a depiction of God. After Gray stated that "[Karoui's] conviction raises serious concerns about tolerance and freedom of expression in the new Tunisia," the Tunisian Foreign Ministry expressed its displeasure with Gray's comments and decried perceived US interference in the Tunisian judicial system.[20][21]

As Gray prepared to leave his post in July 2012, he expressed optimism over Tunisia's future thanks to the nation's capable government and military, adding that a stable democracy is well within the country's grasp.[22][23][24] He reiterated his confidence in Tunisian civil society in an op-ed piece TIME published on October 9, 2015, the day the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[25]

Gray has twice received the Presidential Meritorious Service award, as well as other awards for exceptional service.[26] In recognition of Gray's support for Tunisia's transition to democracy, on July 4, 2012, President Marzouki awarded him the highest civilian decoration Tunisia grants to foreigners, the "Grand Officier de l'Ordre de la République."[27][28]


  1. ^ "CAP Announces Former Ambassador Gordon Gray as New Chief Operating Officer". Center for American Progress. Center for American Progress. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Gordon Gray". National War College. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Ambassador Gordon Gray". National War College. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Bewig, Matt; Wallechinsky, David. "Ambassador to Tunisia: Who Is Gordon Gray?". AllGov. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  5. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". White House. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  6. ^ "NUSACC WELCOMES AMBASSADOR (RET.) GORDON GRAY AS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT" (PDF). NUSACC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Washington-area appointments and promotions for Aug. 17, 2015". Washington Post. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  8. ^ "AMBASSADOR (RET.) GORDON GRAY BIO" (PDF). NUSACC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  9. ^ "U.S. OFFICIALS SEE TERRORISM AS A SHIFTING THREAT TO NATION". State Department. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  10. ^ Turner, Sgt. David. "Senior Diplomat Visits Leaders in Iraqi Province". DoD. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Ambassador Gordon Gray". Embassy of the United States. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "AMBASSADOR GORDON GRAY HOSTS A RECEPTION ON THE OCCASION OF U.S. INDEPENDENCE DAY". Embassy of the United States. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Tunisian Embassy Cable". Al-Akhbar. 8 December 2010. Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  16. ^ "Tunisian Government Closes Schools As Unrest Spreads". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 11 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Tunisia summons US ambassador". PressTV. Archived from the original on 12 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Tunisia summons US ambassador over riot comments". Associated Press. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  19. ^ "Swiss to freeze Ben Ali funds". Al Jazeera English. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Tunisian who showed 'Persepolis' on TV fined in free speech case". Washington Post. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  21. ^ "Embassy Row: Tunisia angered". Washington Times. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  22. ^ "Tunisia: 'Nation Fortunate to Have Very Professional Army,' Says U.S. Ambassador". 28 June 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  23. ^ "US Ambassador to Tunisia Gordon Gray Leaves Office". 29 June 2012. Archived from the original on 4 July 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  24. ^ "REMARKS AT THE U.S. EMBASSY INDEPENDENCE DAY RECEPTION". Embassy of the United States. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
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  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert F. Godec
United States Ambassador to Tunisia
Succeeded by
Jacob Walles