Wolfowitz Of Baghdad Rumors Are Flying

Wolfowitz of Baghdad?

Rumors are flying around official Washington that the new US ambassador in Iraq as of July 1 will be Paul Wolfowitz. He is currently deputy Secretary of Defense, but probably could not have continued into a second Bush term. He is associated with the worst mistakes of Iraq– concentrating in 2001 on Saddam rather than on al-Qaeda, hyping Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, insisting that Iraqis would welcome a US occupation with garlands, thinking Iraqi Shiites were “secular” and had no sensitive holy cities in that country, and backing the corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi and his militia as successors to Saddam and the Baath. He is probably already a liability to Bush in this election. There were earlier rumors that he might step down this spring.

Sending him to Baghdad as ambassador would solve a problem for Bush domestically, perhaps. But having a Likudnik* run the US embassy in Baghdad would be a complete disaster for US policy in Iraq and in the whole region. It would be proof positive to the insurgents in Iraq that the US intends to reshape the country in accordance with a Zionist agenda and make Iraqis the bitches of Ariel Sharon [Mind you, I think this conspiratorial way of thinking illegitimate, but it is already a theme in Iraqi popular political discourse]. It seems unlikely to me that Wolfowitz could get the cooperation of the Shiite clerics.

You also wonder whether Wolfowitz could be a successful ambassador, given the way he has sidelined and badmouthed the State Department. Wouldn’t the foreign service officers find ways to sabotage him?

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*the objection to calling Wolfowitz a Likudnik is often raised, that he believes in a Palestinian state. But even Sharon says that. Wolfowitz is probably closer to the Sharansky faction in Israeli politics (which is in coalition with Likud) than to Sharon, but he is still on the Right and would not exactly vote Labor. It is a little unlikely that the Arab street will be interested in these distinctions.