If the President of the United States calls you and congratulates you on being offered an ambassadorship, it is reasonable for you to start packing your bags for a long trip overseas. Or so you would think. Unless you are General Anthony Zinni.
This is not a good sign:
“Jones had called me before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as ambassador to Iraq or in one of the envoy jobs, on the Middle East peace process,” Zinni told Foreign Policy. “I said yes.”
“Then two weeks ago, Jones called,” Zinni continued, “and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes.
“The president called and congratulated me,” Zinni said.
Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for a meeting last Monday night, Zinni said. He said he went to the meeting in her office at the State Department, where Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Williams Burns were also in attendance.
“She thanks me, asked me my views on Iraq,” Zinni recalled. “She said to Burns and Steinberg, ‘We’ve got to move quickly, Crocker is leaving, we’ve got to get someone in there and get the paperwork done and hearings… Lots to do to get ready to go.”
Zinni said he expected a call from Burns the next day. Not hearing from him, he called him.
“To make a long story short, I kept getting blown off all week,” Zinni said. “Meantime, I was rushing to put my personal things in order,” to get ready to go.
“Finally, nobody was telling me anything,” Zinni said. “I called Jones Monday several times. I finally got through late in evening. I asked Jones, ‘What’s going on?’ And Jones said, ‘We decided on Chris Hill.'”
“I said, ‘Really,'” Zinni recalled. “That was news to me.”
Jones asked him if he would like to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Zinni said. “I said, ‘You can stick that with whatever other offers,'” Zinni recalled, saying he had used more colorful language with Jones. Asked Jones’s response and if he was apologetic, Zinni said, “Jones was not too concerned. He laughed about it.”
It is unclear who pulled the plug on the Zinni appointment, but I am sure it is an interesting story. One wonders if the White House and the State Department are reading from the same script. I of course would not be surprised if they were not.
This is amateur hour. If you want to bring about Middle East peace, this is not the way to start.