Undersecretary of State Chris Hill has been nominated as Iraq Ambassador to replace the sober, knowledgeable, talented, and Arabic speaking Ryan Crocker:
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, a career diplomat who since 2005 was chief negotiator in the often difficult effort to try to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear programs, will be nominated as ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said.
He is an unexpected choice to succeed the highly regarded Ryan C. Crocker, who retired last month after a career spent largely in the Arab world.
Hill is a consummate dealmaker, but he does not speak Arabic, and his expertise lies in Europe and Northeast Asia. He was ambassador to Poland, Macedonia and South Korea and also was a top negotiator to the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in the mid-1990s.
A consummate dealmaker? Recall his decision to accept a less than favorable deal on North Korea’s nuclear declarations last summer. James Rosen was steaming in July:
Yet in welcoming the North’s declaration last week, eight months after Hill offered his “professional judgment,” White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley admitted the Six-Party allies still need to “get to the bottom of this issue of the uranium enrichment…Our intelligence community has some concerns about their past activities and has some concerns about potentially ongoing activities.” And the proliferation activity? “We want to get to the bottom of that” as well, Hadley said, “to make sure there is not continuing activity going on between North Korea and Syria, or activity with respect to other locations as well.”
So it would appear that, after long delay, the Bush administration has chosen to accept — and to hail as “a good step forward,” in the words of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — a “partial declaration” of the very sort her point man on the issue, Ambassador Hill, dismissed earlier this year as “no declaration at all.” Indeed, given the nature of the document’s omissions, and the administration’s own stated suspicions about ongoing activities, it is fair to wonder whether the declaration even rises to the level of the “80 percent or 90 percent” Hill also declared unacceptable in January. All the North Koreans were willing to say in their declaration about HEU and Syria, according to Hadley, was that “they’re not engaged in these activities now and won’t [be] in the future.” “They also have acknowledged in writing that we have raised concerns,” Hadley added, as if that were a victory for American diplomacy.
The Washington Post does note, however, that it was at Hill’s urging that the Bush Administration looked more closely at the nefarious nature of Kim Jong-Il and North Korea.