Sunday, February 3, 2008

What's behind the US Ambassador's dissent?

Last week, there were a couple of not so CNNized news blips that I find noteworthy:

  1. The White house is embarrassed as The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, violated Washington's long-standing policy on contact with officials from the Islamic government of Iran by showing up on a stage in Switzerland with the Iranian foreign minister. (here's a Huffington Post take on the event.)
  2. Khalilzad comes out and says outright: Iran's regional power is strengthened by US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This in my opinion is a clear signaling that Khalilzad is breaking away from his old masters, and is nodding at the new president, betting his money on Obama, and positioning himself to stick to power and take a central position in whatever foreign policy America will exercise towards Iran.

Is it because Khalilzad is a wise, peace loving dude?!

I'd say NO!

Is Khalilzad a peacemaker, or a career opportunist?

I remember reading about Khailizad in the New Yorker's Profile: "American Viceroy".

In many ways, Khalilzad seems the ideal envoy for Iraq. He was born in Afghanistan, was educated in Beirut and America, and is a moderate Muslim with long experience in American foreign-policy circles. Since September 11, 2001, he has been at the center of the Administration’s war on terror. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, Khalilzad was a special assistant to the President on the Middle East and Western Asia, reporting to the then nationalsecurity adviser, Condoleezza Rice. He worked closely with the Northern Alliance and other opponents of the Taliban regime. After Kabul fell, he helped to put together the transitional government of Hamid Karzai. In late 2002, with the Iraq war in the planning stages, President Bush named him Ambassador at Large for Free Iraqis.

Khalilzad was a hawk; he was close to neoconservatives like Richard Perle and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and had argued for regime change in Iraq for more than a decade. He arrived in Baghdad a few days after the first American troops, alongside General Jay Garner, who was sent to supervise the reconstruction of Iraq. But a few weeks later Khalilzad and Garner were suddenly recalled to Washington, apparently at the behest of the Pentagon, and were replaced by Paul Bremer, who became the head of the new Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremer, in almost every major aspect, proved to be ineffectual. His peremptory dissolution of the Iraqi Army, in May of 2003, gave the insurgency vigor and a vastly expanded constituency.

In late 2003, Khalilzad was sent to Afghanistan as the U.S. Ambassador. The political capital he has in the Administration—which is considerable—is due to his successes there. While he was in Kabul, Afghanistan held its first free elections in history, which Karzai won handily. Karzai regarded Khalilzad as his close friend and adviser; he was very unhappy when, last April, President Bush nominated Khalilzad to replace Bremer’s successor in Baghdad, John Negroponte. Karzai appealed to President Bush several times to reconsider his decision.

Bush moved Khalilzad anyway. American forces had lost control of security in Iraq. There were more than a hundred car bombings in April alone, and the death toll for American soldiers had passed seventeen hundred. (As of last week, it had risen to over twenty-one hundred.) In October, the Pentagon published its first statistics for Iraq’s war dead; it estimated that nearly twenty-six thousand Iraqis had been killed by insurgents between January, 2004, and September, 2005. The figure did not include Iraqis killed by Americans.

When Khalilzad was offered the Ambassador’s job, he called Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, who was Khalilzad’s mentor when they were both on the faculty at Columbia, in the early eighties. “I told him he should be in charge of policy and not just the execution of policy,” Brzezinski said recently. “He brings a lot more to bear than his predecessors, who knew nothing about Iraq. I wonder how many of our top decision-makers knew, a few years ago, the difference between a Sunni and a Shia. It was a gutsy decision to put himself in the line of fire. He is a broad-minded pragmatist and an insightful strategist. He has a unique advantage in a part of the world in which the United States has become massively engaged and does not have many people at the top equipped to deal with it. The top decision-makers today are ignorant and Manichaean.”

Where is Khalilzad coming from?
In 1975, Khalilzad went to the University of Chicago to pursue a doctorate in political science. “Zal was very much a child of the seventies, in jeans, a dishevelled haircut,” Augustus Richard Norton, one of his fellow-students and now a professor of international relations at Boston University, recalled. “He looked very much the part of a West Beirut radical in those days.”

At Chicago, Khalilzad became a student of Albert Wohlstetter, an expert in military strategy. Wohlstetter’s argument that the U.S. should achieve global supremacy through strategic nuclear weaponry had a powerful effect on the thinking of the nascent movement of American neoconservatives. Khalilzad recalled that he had sat in on a lecture in which Wohlstetter spoke about the “inevitability of war.” Khalilzad raised his hand and asked about “the inevitability of permanent peace.” This got Wohlstetter’s attention. He asked to see Khalilzad after class, and invited him to join a seminar he taught.

Wohlstetter held his seminars at his Chicago apartment, to which he invited people like Wolfowitz, who had been his student, to speak to the group. “Zal thrived in this environment,” Norton said. Wohlstetter had cultivated a network of like-minded thinkers, both at Chicago and at RAND, where he worked for many years, and several had gone on to jobs in government. (Wohlstetter introduced Perle to Chalabi.) According to Norton, Wohlstetter helped Khalilzad to make contacts in Washington early in his career. “Without the connections, Zal might have ended up as an obscure academic,” Norton said. “What Albert was able to do was to give him fast-track access to fairly Olympian heights of power, and that’s quite an advantage.”

How/When did he become a key player in Neoconservative ploy? In 80s, by aiding Mujahedin, and then leaving Afghanistan to Taliban!
The U.S. had been channelling aid to the mujahideen through the C.I.A. and the Pakistani intelligence service. Around the time Khalilzad arrived, in 1985, President Reagan signed a secret directive authorizing an increase in aid to the Afghans, but the Administration was divided over whether that should include sophisticated heat-seeking anti-aircraft Stinger missiles. Khalilzad argued strongly that it should. After months of debate, the mujahideen got the Stingers.

“The Stingers sent a big message,” Khalilzad said. “It was an open secret that we were involved, but the intelligence channel gave us deniability. The Stingers removed that. American power and prestige had become engaged, we had crossed a threshold. But, at the same time, there was a lot of soul-searching as to whether or not this was going to make it harder for the Soviets to back down."


Khalilzad resists being labelled a neoconservative. (“To the best of my knowledge, I have not sat together with people and said, ‘Aha! Here is a doctrine, and this is what it means,’ ” he said.) As far as Iraq is concerned, however, he was in the neoconservative camp for years before the war. In 1998, Khalilzad signed an open letter to President Clinton that called for more robust action against Saddam. Other signatories included Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle. Khalilzad told me that he had signed on because “when I left the government there was this sense that we had not done the right thing in Iraq. We had unfinished business.”

When Khalilzad has appeared in the press over the years, it has often been in connection with behind-the-scenes policymaking, and in certain quarters he is regarded as a Strangelovian figure, a dark eminence of American imperial power. One issue that has provoked controversy is his association with the energy company Unocal, which earned Khalilzad a cameo in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” In the mid-nineties, Unocal had tried unsuccessfully to secure a gas-pipeline deal from the Taliban government, which had seized power in Kabul in 1996 after years of civil war. Moore suggested that Republicans had first pandered to the Taliban, at the behest of their cohorts in the oil industry, and then turned against them when they didn’t make a deal.

Khalilzad worked as a paid consultant on the pipeline project, and during the negotiations he publicly expressed support for the Taliban. In 1996, in an editorial for the Washington Post, Khalilzad wrote, “The Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran—it is closer to the Saudi model. The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.” He also met with Taliban emissaries on a trip to Houston.
Please, do read the entire article ...

I do have a thank to give Mr. Khalilizad, politically speaking: he is the one to convince neocons to focus on Saddam, instead of Iran!


nunya said...

Here's another pipeline tool

Both were consultants for Unocal .

It would be really nice if Americans high school students were required to take a whole year of "Energy Studies" instead of required two years of (usually a European) foreign language. I dunno, makes sense to me.

Naj said...

He Nunya:
I love this part:

"In 2004 he rejected a US proposal to end poppy production in Afghanistan through aerial spraying of chemical herbicides, fearing that it will harm the economic situation of his country men. Moreover, Karzai's younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who partially helped finance Karzai's presidential campaign, is rumored to be involved in the drug trade[2]"

I am sure Bushits are using their percentage of the drug deals to fund a revolution against Chavez ;)

nunya said...


Yep, and then to make sure that American taxpayers get stuck paying the "security contractor" bills for the KBR dudes that are probably dealing drugs to other American taxpayers and concurrently spraying the coca and marijuana fields (maybe poppies too) in OTHER S American countries like Columbia.

Oy. Oy Vey.