Those who have believed that the departure of Dubya from the oval office will mean that Israeli politicians will no longer be able to call up American presidents and tell them what to do should think twice. The story of General Anthony Zinniâ€™s aborted appointment as ambassador to Iraq has received remarkably little attention, and it has been attributed to his being a general and his directorship with major military contractor Dyncorp. Neither explanation is plausible as Hillary Clinton certainly knew he was a general when the appointment was discussed and the issue of Dyncorp never came up in the interview process.
Zinni was offered the position after an interview with Hillary Clinton at the end of January and even received a call from Joe Biden congratulating him on the next day, but the assignment was derailed in the following week. Christopher Hill received the ambassadorship instead of Zinni and Zinni received no explanation why he had been passed over, which reportedly irritated the hell out of him.
I have been informed by a State Department contact that Zinni was rejected after Clinton came under pressure from some major supporters in New York State who told her that the appointment was unacceptable to Israel because Zinni is perceived as â€œhostileâ€ to the Jewish state. Zinni has, indeed, been critical of Israel on a number of occasions. Another source in the intelligence community has told me that Zinni was perceived as bad for Israelâ€™s security because Israel regards Iraq as a â€œfront line stateâ€ in its confrontation with Iran. If Israel were to attack Iran it would need overflight approval over Iraq, something that Zinni would be unlikely to approve, possibly even submitting his resignation to stop such a development. It is not clear if Hill would necessarily be more amenable, but as a career diplomat not known for being outspoken or independent minded he would be unlikely to rock the boat if Washington wanted to look the other way to enable an Israeli attack.
Cross-posted at The American Conservative blog.