New U.S. Ambassador To Iraq

The man picked to run the embassy in Baghdad has memories of how the city used to be.After all, he met his wife there 27 years ago.

The Bush administration picked a qualified diplomat in tapping Ryan C. Crocker to become the new ambassador to Iraq, replacing Zalmay Khalilzad, who’s been tapped to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Crocker, 57, is currently ambassador to Pakistan. He’s a career diplomat who’s served in various posts around the Middle East over the past 25 years, including as ambassador to Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. During an early State Department tour, in 1983, he was stationed in Beirut when Israel invaded and terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine barracks.

Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has plugged Crocker into various short-term War on Terror assignments. In January 2002, he went to Afghanistan to reopen the U.S. embassy in Kabul. In 2003, he served briefly as the first Director of Governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

In addition to his fluency in Arabic, one thing that may have made Crocker so appealing is that he’s also trained in Persian, which could come in handy over the coming years in Baghdad, where the influence of neighboring Iranian diplomats is evidently prevalent.

Bush, however, likely won’t mention that when he speaks of Crocker during a nationally televised address scheduled for Wednesday night, in which, according to The London Times, the U.S. President is expected “to announce an increase in U.S. troop numbers in Iraq by 20,000.”

More will come out about Crocker over the coming days. But for starters, we can be sure he has an affinity for Baghdad, given it’s where he met his wife in 1979, according to his State Department bio. (She’s a retired foreign service secretary, not an Iraqi). We may also expect to see him jogging around Baghdad’s Green Zone in the months to come. According to The New York Times, Crocker “runs several miles early every morning, even in such danger spots as Beirut, where he was trailed by burly security guards who sometimes had to hop on bicycles to keep up.”

As ambassador to Pakistan on June 20, 2006, Crocker gave a lengthy interview to PBS FRONTLINE about various topics, including the resurgence of the Taliban, in which he remarked that “a fight isn’t over until an enemy concludes he’s defeated.”