Did Tony Zinni Think He Was Going to Be the Next Iraq Ambassador?
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 at 10:03 am
Barbara Slavin at The Washington Times has an interesting coda to the not-yet-official-but-very-likely appointment of Chris Hill to be ambassador to Iraq. Apparently, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, a former Central Command chief and Iraq war opponent who quietly advised President Obama during the campaign, thought he was getting the job — and was even told by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 26 that it was his. Slavin reports:
“I started making arrangements,” Gen. Zinni said, but became concerned because he heard nothing further from the State Department or White House. He called [National Security Adviser James] Jones Monday night and was told that Christopher Hill, the outgoing assistant secretary of State for East Asia, was getting the job.
Gen. Zinni said no explanation was given. “That kind of bothered me,” he said. “I was told that I had it.”
There’s so much specificity in Slavin’s reporting — plus, of course, Zinni on the record — that this seems rather credible. Zinni knows a massive amount about the Middle East. One extremely speculative explanation for why you wouldn’t want to appoint him would be that it might look weird to have two retired generals in ambassadorial positions in both Iraq and Afghanistan (though being a general in an overseas command during the last 15 years has frequently required a massive diplomatic component). But that doesn’t explain how senior administration officials could have led Zinni to believe he actually had a job he didn’t have.
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