Corridors of Power: Iraq, the Pope and Women in the Arab World

The United States embassy in Baghdad is a bustling complex with a staff of over a thousand Americans, more than in any other country. Its Iraqi counterpart in Washington is a quiet, shuttered red brick house adjacent to Dupont Circle with maybe a dozen staffers headed by Ambassador Mahmoud Sumaidaie. who has held the post since May. Sumaidaie may be Iraq's leading voice in the United States, but he speaks in a whisper, and very selectively, steering clear of the high volume public debate about the future of his country.

For a diplomat whose country dominates the news, he has managed to keep a remarkably low profile, and presumably this is how the Bush administration likes it. The last thing Washington wants is a real Iraqi official butting into the discussion. Sumaidaie arrived after the ambassadorship had been left empty by the Iraqis for almost two years. In 2003, the Iraqi governing council had appointed as Baghdad's representative Rend Reim Francke, an elegant Iraqi-American woman who had previously run an Iraqi lobby.

In contrast to Sumaidaie, she was all over the place pleading Iraq's cause, speaking at think tanks, testifying before congress, giving television and press interviews. In retrospect, that may have been one of the problems. The Iraqis never named her as their ambassador, and after a few months she faded away.

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