Mary Catherine Phee

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Molly Phee
Mary Catherine Phee.jpg
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
In office
December 12, 2017 – March 28, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byTracey Ann Jacobson
Succeeded byKevin Moley
2nd United States Ambassador to South Sudan
In office
July 23, 2015 – August 22, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded bySusan Page
Succeeded byThomas Hushek
Personal details
Born1963 (age 55–56)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Alma materIndiana University, Bloomington (B.A.)
Tufts University (M.A.)

Mary Catherine "Molly" Phee (born 1963) is an American diplomat and a former United States Ambassador to South Sudan. She was nominated by President Barack Obama on September 17, 2014; and confirmed by the Senate June 24, 2015.[1][2] She was sworn in on July 15, 2015,[3] to replace Susan D. Page, who had resigned.[4]

Phee was recalled to Washington in late 2017 to serve as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Most recently, she has been serving as the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. In October 2018, it was announced that she would be nominated to be the next United States Ambassador to Qatar.[5] That nomination has, however, expired.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Phee is from Chicago. She was an undergraduate at Indiana University, where she earned a B.A. She pursued graduate studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, earning an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy in 1989. As part of her graduate studies, she participated in an internship program with the United Nations Environment Programme that involved travel and study in Kenya.


Molly Phee (center) at school building dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Following her graduate studies, Phee became a deputy press secretary to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.[7][8]

Phee joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1991. Her assignments in the Foreign Service have included ones in Rome, Italy; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo, Egypt; and Amman, Jordan and Washington, DC.

From 2003 to 2004, she served as the Senior Civilian Representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Maysan Province, Iraq [9][10]

Phee moved to New York in 2005 as counselor for political affairs at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, where on occasion sat in for then Ambassador John R. Bolton.

Phee served as Counselor for Political Affairs and Deputy Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Then in 2008, Phee then took an assignment in Italy as the regional affairs coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus invited Phee to join the Joint Strategic Assessment Team established in 2007 to revise the U.S. strategy in Iraq. She then returned to Washington to serve as director for Iraq at the National Security Council. In that role she was responsible for coordinating the U.S. transition from military to civilian operations.

From 2011 to 2014, Phee served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When President Obama nominated her to become Ambassador to South Sudan, she was already serving as Chief of Staff at the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

When the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not immediately confirm Phee’s nomination, several NGO’s wrote to the committee urging it to quickly confirm the nomination, given the difficult situation in South Sudan. The organizations included Better World Campaign, The Enough Project, Humanity United, Jewish World Watch, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Relief International, Save the Children, United to End Genocide, and Water for South Sudan. The NGO’s protested that the U.S. had been without a confirmed Ambassador to South Sudan since August 2014. They noted that the absence of an ambassador in a country involved in a "deadly, costly and geopolitically destabilizing civil war" had limited the U.S. ability to successfully promote peaceful resolution.[11]

In accepting the role of Ambassador in 2015, Phee was expected to oversee the relief effort of $456 million donated by the U.S. for over a million people displaced by the war, as well as revive the peace talks in Addis Ababa.[12]


In addition to English, Phee speaks Arabic, French and Italian.[13]


  1. ^ Senate confirms six ambassadors, including two for Baltics The Washington Post, June 24, 2015
  2. ^ Testimony of Mary Catherine Phee Nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan March 25, 2015 Senate Foreign Relations Committee U.S. Senate, March 25, 2015
  3. ^ U.S. Department of State, Mary Catherine Phee U.S. Department of State,accessed April 18, 2016
  4. ^ US president to nominate S. Sudan ambassador The Sudan Tribune, September 19, 2014
  5. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts". The White House. October 17, 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  6. ^ [1] CNN, Trump expected to ditch career diplomat and nominate former GOP congressman as Qatar ambassador, January 12, 2019
  7. ^ THE CASE OF THE HIGH COURT SCRAP The Washington Post, June 16, 1987
  8. ^ U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan: Who Is Molly Phee? AllGov, November 30, 2014
  9. ^ Rory Stewart, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, Harcourt; First Edition (July 26, 2006) ISBN 978-0151012350,pp 180-182
  10. ^ Bob Woodward, The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008 , Simon & Schuster; First edition (September 8, 2008) ISBN 978-1416558972, p. 335
  11. ^ NGOs Urge Senate to Confirm Ambassador to South Sudan Enough Project, June 4, 2015
  12. ^ Who is the new US ambassador to South Sudan? The New Nation, October 6, 2014
  13. ^ [2] U.S. Department of State, "Phee Mary Catherine - State of Qatar - November 2018"
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Susan Page
United States Ambassador to South Sudan
Succeeded by
Thomas Hushek