Conning Condi

In a surprise move, writes Jim Lobe on, "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has appointed a prominent neoconservative hawk and leading champion of the Iraq war to the post of State Department Counselor." Her right-hand man, Philip Zelikow, who was also executive director of the 9/11 Commission and gained further notoriety when he proclaimed that the US invaded Iraq to protect Israel, resigned. He'll be replaced by Elliot Cohen, an American Enterprise Institute type, who learned at the feet of Paul Wolfowitz.

In fact, writes Lobe, Cohen was "particularly scathing about [the Iraq Study Group's] recommendations for Washington to directly engage Syria and Iran and revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- recommendations which Rice herself has explicitly endorsed in the last few weeks."

With Rice spreading her diplomatic wings ever wider -- besides promoting the Syria-Iran talks, she did an end run around Cheney on North Korea -- what gives? Is this just another example of her "one step forward, two steps back" syndrome when it comes to promoting diplomacy over force?

If you'll recall, she helped broker a peace in Lebanon last summer. But not before giving her blessings for the carnage to run its course when she said that a cease-fire "will be a false promise if it returns us to the status quo."

Lobe quotes the New America Foundation's Steven Clemons (who also runs a great blog: The Washington Note): "Rice never takes Cheney head-on and is very careful not to take on people who might antagonize him."

Or as Jim Lobe, when contacted, said of Rice. She "triangulates all the time."

But what about Cohen? He must know Rice is using him as a spoonful of sugar to make the diplomacy go down for Cheney.

Lobe then quotes Chris Nelson, editor of the Washington insider newsletter, The Nelson Report. "'And, if she's really planning to put her foot down on the Israelis, which [Washington] will have to do if it wants to get a real process with the Palestinians then a guy like Cohen up there on the [State Department's] seventh floor who is in on it and can claim influence on the outcome can help.'"

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