Iraq Envoy’s Got Oil On His Resume



Zalmay “Or He May Not” Khalilizad, whose diplomatic CV includes a stint as a consultant to Unocal

The White House is expected to announce Friday that Zalmay Khalilzad is the new American ambassador to Iraq. As The New York Times reports, the move is not a surprise: Khalilzad has been the odds-on favorite to replace John Negroponte, who left the ambassador post to become national intelligence director.

What is a surprise, however, is that neither the Times, nor the Associated Press, nor the New York Sun mentioned Khalilzad’s experience as a consultant to a major oil company.

The Times piece ran 592 words and referred to Khalilzad’s high school basketball career and his graduate work at the University of Chicago. The Sun printed 770 words that detailed Khalilzad’s most recent job as the envoy to Afghanistan and outlined the challenges he’ll face in Iraq.

But neither paper mentioned Khalilzad’s work for Unocal, which apparently included negotiating with the Taliban over a pipeline that the company wanted to build across Afghanistan in the 1990s. Agence France Presse mentioned the Unocal link in its 116-word brief on Khalilzad’s nomination.

From a top job at the National Security Council to his recent gig in Kabul, Khalilzad brings a host of diplomatic experience to the new job. Just because he once worked for an oil company doesn’t mean he’s being installed at the behest of the petroleum industry. So it would be a stretch to make too much out of Khalilzad’s work for Unocal several years ago.

But it also seems weird to make nothing out of it — and especially to mention key points of his resume but not the Unocal stint.

Of course, it is possible the reporters simply didn’t know about the Unocal connection. While the link was mentioned in “Fahrenheit 9/11” and several articles about that movie, it is not noted in the State Department’s official biography of the diplomat. But a State Department spokesman confirms Khalilzad did work for Unocal.