Obama overrides Hillary; Baghdad appointment telegraphs new U.S. Iran policy
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, in what was seen as a key
message to Iran, intervened at the last minute to nominate his personal
choice as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
Christopher Hill, former Ambassador and U.S. Asst Sec. of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in New York, on Feb. 3.
Government sources said Obama blocked the appointment of former U.S.
Central Command chief [Ret.] Gen. Anthony Zinni as the next U.S. ambassador
Iraq. Instead, Obama, overruling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
selected outgoing Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill as ambassador to
"Zinni was regarded as being a key player in the U.S. withdrawal from
Hill was chosen by Obama because the president wants a direct line with
Teheran," a government source said.
Zinni, an early opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq, was said to have been
Ms. Clinton's choice for ambassador to Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.
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The sources said the appointment of Hill reflected an emerging Obama
policy of reconciliation with Teheran. Under President George Bush, Hill,
supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, spearheaded a U.S. drive
to offer concessions to North Korea for a pledge to end its nuclear weapons
program. The sources said Hill's negotiations with Pyongyang failed to stop
or slow down its missile or nuclear program.
The sources said
Zinni, who advised Obama during the campaign, was informed by Ms. Clinton on
Jan. 26 that he had been nominated ambassador. Zinni was told to submit
documents to the Senate on Feb. 3 for the confirmation process.
On late Feb. 2, Zinni received a telephone call from National Security
Advisor James Jones that Hill would be nominated instead. The sources said
fellow U.S. Marine commander, said the switch was ordered by Obama.
The sources said Hill's appointment reflected Obama's determination to
accelerate any reconciliation dialogue with Teheran. They said Hill would
senior Iranian representatives in Baghdad in discussions expected to focus
on Teheran's nuclear program. Both Iran and the United States have
established a large diplomatic presence in Baghdad.
"Hill will be authorized by Obama to win Iranian cooperation for the
U.S. withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan," the source said. "The
president sees Iran as the key to any smooth withdrawal."