Thursday, January 04, 2007

Khalilzad to the U.N.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC News is reporting that current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will be Bush's nominee to replace John Bolton at the U.N. Current U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker will be nominated to replace Khalilzad.

This is not unexpected. As I mentioned back in November, there have been reports that Khalilzad was going to leave Baghdad within the near future. But why was he going to leave? Why would he want to leave? I quoted Steve Clemons in my November post as suggesting that "Khalilzad [was] tired of being undermined by opponents in the White House and by elements of Iraq's unstable regime end-running him to influence rivals of his in the administration". But at least he knows Iraq extremely well, as Clemons argued, and he's done fairly well to try to work towards some sort of political compromise that would bridge the gulf between the Sunnis and Shiites. Surely the U.S. won't have the same diplomatic prowess in Iraq without him, and now he's off to the U.N., where he'll be required to do Bush's bidding on the world stage.

True, the U.S. needs a real diplomat at the U.N -- someone who can work with the international community, not alienate and irritate it -- and Khalilzad thankfully is no Bolton, but I do wonder what this means for Iraq. Bush's "new" strategy involves a troop surge, a military option motivated by politics. Perhaps it has no room for serious diplomacy. Once the surge is over, all that will remain is withdrawal. And Iraq -- Bush's disaster -- will be left to the Iraqis.

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