John Buzbee at the Alhambra, a onetime Moorish palace, in Granada, Spain, in 2014. (AP)

John Buzbee, a Foreign Service officer who served across the Middle East, including two stints in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion, died Sept. 15 at his home in Washington. He was 50.

The cause was complications from metastatic colon cancer, said Terence Hunt, the deputy Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. Mr. Buzbee’s wife, Sally, is Washington bureau chief and a vice president of the AP.

Mr. Buzbee served in Iraq during the effort to rebuild the nation after the ouster of Saddam Hussein — first in Tikrit, under the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004, and later as a political officer in Baghdad in 2008 and 2009.

In Tikrit, he worked closely with local Iraqi officials, visiting schools and promoting democracy, economic and education efforts as the U.S. sought to rebuild the devastated country before a violent insurgency took hold.

Mr. Buzbee started his career as a newspaper reporter, working at the Kansas City Star and the now-defunct Outlook in Santa Monica, Calif. A fascination with the Middle East prompted him to change careers.

After earning a degree in Arab studies at Georgetown University in 1997, he joined the Foreign Service, working in U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department in Washington over the next 16 years.

Mr. Buzbee served as a political officer and vice consul in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; an economic officer in both Cairo and Jerusalem; and a cultural affairs officer in Cairo.

In later years, he served in Washington at the State Department as deputy director for Syria in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; as a senior adviser in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; as a researcher at the Foreign Service Institute; and as an adviser in the office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs.

He also worked on Balkan issues in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs as the deputy director for South Central Europe.

He took a medical retirement in January.

John Richard Buzbee was born in Olathe, Kan., on April 15, 1966. He spent his high school years in Hutchinson, Kan., where his father was editor and publisher of a newspaper. He was a 1989 political science and journalism graduate of the University of Kansas.

Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Sally Streff Buzbee, and their two daughters, Emma and Margaret, all of Washington; his parents, Richard and Marie Buzbee of Hutchinson; and two brothers. Another daughter, Anne Marie Buzbee, died in infancy in 1998.