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November 27, 2005

The Steward Of Pottery Barn

Tikrit-Palace-Turnover

 Khalilzad Leaving

Is U.S. Iraqi Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad really Paul Bremer in disguise?

A theme The BAG has been pursuing lately is the MSM’s reluctance to acknowledge how much the U.S. continues to exert political control over Iraq.  At the same time, the reality of the fact keeps surfacing between the lines.  Consider the story last week in the NYT by John Burns regarding the return of Tikrit’s massive palace complex to the Iraqi’s (Return of Former Palace to Sovereignty of Iraqis Offers Glimmer of Hope – link).

First of all, the fact this high profile event was so vulnerable as to be temporarily disrupted by a mortar attack doesn’t exactly bode well for the our stabilization efforts.  (The second shot shows the smiling U.S. ambassador "escorted" out of the ceremony by two men identified as "armed guards.")

However, my main point has to do the exercise of U.S. authority behind
the scenes (or actually, in plain sight, but absent the attention of
the press). Here’s an example of how contradictory and telling details
manage to show themselves. The seventh paragraph of The Times story
reads as follows:

Mr. Khalilzad, a 54-year-old former scholar who came to Baghdad last
summer after two years as ambassador to Afghanistan, where he was born,
made light of the affair
[the mortar attack] and used it to
underscore the close relationship that he and the general say is
central to calibrating America’s policies here. "I ended up with
General Casey on top of me," he said, laughing, "so I guess that’s a
pretty good sign for civil-military relations." He stuck to his
schedule after the ceremony, meeting with local leaders in the palace
to accept petitions on everything from property disputes to a reopening
of the Tikrit airport.

What it curious — both in tone and content –
is this last sentence. Can you interpret Khalilzad’s role as anything
but a viceroy if he serves as the ultimate authority among local
leaders (especially in the palace he supposedly just returned!). And
what can we make of the mandate "the local authorities" do possess
considering they don’t even sit in disposition of property disputes?

(image 1: Associated Press Television.
Tikrit, Iraq. November 23, 2005. image 2: Bassim Daham/Associated
Press. Tikrit, Iraq. November 22, 2005. nyt.com)

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