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Jewish World Review April 7, 2003 / 5 Nisan, 5763

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mobray
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State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud? | With war still raging, the State Department is planning to hold a "Baghdad Conference" a mere six weeks after the conflict ends to determine an interim leadership and to establish a framework for its new government-something that many inside the administration fear could give the House of Saud undue influence in a post-Saddam Iraq. The plan is modeled after the Bonn Conference, which Zalmay Khalilzad, now U.S. special envoy to Iraq, oversaw to prepare a transitional government that eventually succeeded the Taliban.

Administration officials and various outside experts agree that a Baghdad Conference, if it happens, would be simply the latest attempt by State to undermine the umbrella organization of democratic Iraqi opposition groups, the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

State is already placing-or attempting to place-pro-Saudi individuals in important positions in a post-Saddam Iraq:

  • Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty recently tapped Beth Payne-who one senior State official says "enjoys a cozy relationship with the Saudis," even though her job has been to recover abducted American children trapped in the desert prison-to take over the consular section at the new Baghdad embassy.

  • State last month forced the Pentagon to appoint longtime diplomat Barbara Bodine-who temporarily refused the FBI entry into Yemen to investigate the U.S.S. Cole-to be civilian administrator in Baghdad. Bodine has extensive ties to Iraqis-but not the right ones. Notes a senior administration official, "She only knows the Ba'athists, because that's who she dealt with, and she's never bothered getting to know the democratic opposition very well." With a long career centered mostly in the Middle East, administration officials describe Bodine as an Arabist who favors traditional, "stable" Arab regimes-the kind where democracy does not flourish.

  • State's top pick for ambassador to the post-Saddam Iraq is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker, who shares Bodine's worldview.

But State may not get Bodine into Baghdad; the Pentagon is pushing back to get someone else in that position. And Crocker will undoubtedly run into opposition from the White House, where the President's vision of a democratic Iraq is diametrically opposed to Crocker's view of the Arab world.

The greatest friend the House of Saud might have in the post-Saddam Iraq, though, is Adnan Pachachi, the octogenarian former foreign minister, who is openly backed by the House of Saud. State sees Pachachi as the most viable alternative to the INC, and even gave its tacit approval to a conference he organized in London on Sunday as part of a campaign to undermine the staunchly pro-democracy INC. One administration official says that Khalilzad is "so obsessed with Pachachi that he forced Jalal Talibani [leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an INC member organization] to put Pachachi on the Iraqi opposition leadership council." But Pachachi was not interested, at least not in being part of the same leadership committee as Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the INC-and he said as much in a Financial Times column last month. Yet State persists in wooing Pachachi.

But perhaps the greatest threat to the INC and democracy-and the greatest boon for the House of Saud-is the proposed Baghdad Conference. If held soon after the smoke clears, only the Ba'athists would be likely to come forward. Since anyone of significance in Iraqi society is a Ba'ath Party member, some party members will necessarily be in the new government-but weeding out Ba'athists will take longer than six weeks. Likely the only people willing to come forward from within Iraq right after the fall of Saddam's regime are people who were part of it because, as one administration official notes, "It takes time for the fear to wear off."

State's attempts to thwart the INC have gotten so bad that a group of five Senators-Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rick Santorum (R-PA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Norm Coleman (R-MN)-sent a letter Monday to President Bush, calling on him to "personally clear the bureaucratic road blocks from within the State Department" and get funding and other support to the INC. As they note in the letter, "American lives are at stake."

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JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of the forthcoming book "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

04/02/03: Martha Burk's State Department adventure
03/31/03: State's bad deeds head to Baghdad
03/26/03: Human shields-turned-hawks
03/24/03: No such thing as a benign despot
03/20/03: Self-fulfilling tyranny
03/14/03: Gadhafi-State Department Alliance
03/12/03: Pushing "peace" pushes war instead
03/10/03: One last chance --- for the UN
03/03/03: Democracy domino theory
02/28/03: $1 Trillion tax cut?
02/12/03: Saudi Slavery in America
02/05/03: "We're Going to War"
02/04/03: State Department's idea of a "traitor"
01/27/03: State's cold shoulder
01/02/03: Canada: The Weakest Link
12/20/02: Real Story of Yemen's Scud Missile Purchase
12/18/02: Lott's got the Senate in the palm of his hand
12/12/02: White House moves closer to finding Iraq in "material breach"
12/10/02: A 9/11 plotter confessed
12/06/02: Saudi Spin doctors dodge U.S. marshals
12/03/02: Wild, Wild Web
12/02/02: Justice, finally, for terrorism victims
11/26/02: Sue McDonalds? I Lost 80 lbs With Fast Food!
11/25/02: The State Department's spin machine
11/22/02: Finally! No more open door for Saudis
11/20/02: A defeat for border security
11/18/02: Trial lawyers vs. homeland security
10/09/02: The visas that shouldn't have been
09/26/02: The "right" Miss America
09/23/02: Tax Cuts, R.I.P.
09/17/02: Freedom denied
09/11/02: Iraqi roulette
09/06/02: O'Reilly the wrong 'Factor' in Saudi abduction case
09/05/02: State's war on Americans
08/09/02: White House wants replace 'Visa Express' genius with woman accused of not helping free kidnapped American kids in Arab lands
07/23/02: Visas for suspected terrorists?
07/03/02: Saudis Fueling Mideast Terrorism
07/02/02: Dick Gephardt, Wannabe Deadbeat Son
06/26/02: Open door for terrorists still open
06/17/02: Open Door for Saudi Terrorists
06/11/02: Sacrificing liberty and safety
05/29/02: Coddling Castro
05/20/02: GOP running from social security reform?
05/09/02: Arab (sky) High Culture
04/24/02: Catholic Church's real challenge
04/17/02: How do you say 'media-bias' in Hebrew?
04/09/02: Sexually Explicit "Abstinence" Education?
04/09/02: A price on the heads of Americans overseas
04/02/02: Bush's New Version of Compartmentalization
03/25/02: Homosexuality a Factor in Sex Abuse by Priests
03/20/02: Government's "Candid Cameras"
03/14/02: Happy Abortionist Appreciation Day
03/07/02: Let dissent ring
03/04/02: Is Ted Kennedy a racist?
02/26/02: The Audacity to Be Black and Conservative

© 2003, Joel Mowbray. Adapted from the February 24 issue of National Review