The appointment was announced Thursday by John Daniszewski, senior managing editor overseeing international news and photos.
The 37-year-old Santana replaces Robert H. Reid, who became the AP's director of news in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Santana will lead a bureau of reporters, photographers and TV news producers and videographers who cover Iraq's daily news and violence, the planned reduction in the U.S. military presence and political reconciliation efforts across sectarian lines.
"Santana has wide experience in newspapers and TV and will provide strong leadership to the AP at a time when the Iraqi government is taking over and the U.S. is starting to draw down troops," Daniszewski said. "Her experience in television news will add a new and important dimension to AP's leadership in Iraq."
Santana joined the AP in 2005 in Trenton, N.J., covering the environment, the military and religious issues. After working at the AP's North America desk in New York, she joined the Mideast regional desk in Cairo in late 2008, where she also undertook numerous reporting and editing assignments to Iraq.
Before joining the AP, Santana worked as a reporter for Cox Newspapers and Voice of America, as a freelance reporter for Fox News and held positions with NBC News. She has worked extensively in the former Soviet Union, as well as in Jerusalem.
A native of Gilroy, Calif., Santana graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1995 and earned a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1997.
By: Rebecca Santana, who has covered the Middle East and Russia as a reporter and editor, has been named bureau chief for The Associated Press in Baghdad.