Iran General NewsPhilip Zelikow, senior aide to Rice, resigns from post

Philip Zelikow, senior aide to Rice, resigns from post


New York Times: Two months ago, the State Department’s counselor, Philip D. Zelikow, offered an oblique criticism of the administration’s failure to push strongly for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the Middle East.
The New York Times

Published: November 28, 2006

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — Two months ago, the State Department’s counselor, Philip D. Zelikow, offered an oblique criticism of the administration’s failure to push strongly for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the Middle East.

In a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mr. Zelikow, an intellectual known for peppering his statements with historical references, said progress on the Arab-Israeli dispute was a “sine qua non” in order to get moderate Arabs “to cooperate actively with the United States on a lot of other things that we care about.”

A State Department spokesman was quick to distance the department officially from Mr. Zelikow’s remarks, which ruffled the feathers of American Jewish groups and Israeli officials. But the administration may soon be doing what Mr. Zelikow advised, starting a renewed push for a Middle East peace initiative, in part to shore up support in the Arab world for providing help in Iraq.

If it works, the architect of the plan will not be around to see its conclusion. On Monday, the 52-year-old Mr. Zelikow, after 19 months serving as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s in-house contrarian and advocate for realpolitik in American diplomacy, submitted his resignation, effective Jan. 2. He said that he would return to the University of Virginia, where he has an endowed chair as a history professor.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Zelikow cited “some truly riveting obligations to college bursars” for his children’s tuition and said he would remain available to help the administration where he could. While Mr. Zelikow, in an interview, maintained that he was not leaving his post because of any disgruntlement, one administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly noted that Mr. Zelikow had been frustrated with the pace of the administration’s diplomatic efforts on the Middle East, Iran and North Korea.

Whatever the reason for Mr. Zelikow’s departure, in losing him Ms. Rice is losing not only one of her most trusted advisers, but also one of the few people in the State Department willing to speak with candor during closed-door meetings on American diplomatic efforts.

Some of his ideas have become policy; he had called for closing down secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency a year before the Supreme Court decision that prodded the Bush administration to empty them. The United States offered North Korea a chance to negotiate a permanent peace treaty, as Mr. Zelikow had advised, and he, along with Ms. Rice, was one of the backers of the Iran initiative, in which President Bush offered to reverse three decades of American policy against direct talks with Iran if it suspended uranium enrichment. Neither North Korea nor Iran has responded positively to the initiatives, but America’s allies applauded them.

“I appreciate Philip’s dedicated service in this time of historic change and we will miss his counsel at the State Department,” Ms. Rice said in a statement.

Mr. Zelikow and Ms. Rice are co-authors of a book about Germany’s reunification, “Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft” (Harvard University Press, 1995). The book is a study in realpolitik, examining — and admiring — the tempered, carefully managed American response to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the interview on Monday, Mr. Zelikow disputed suggestions that he was more of a political realist than an ideologue, calling it a “false dichotomy.”

“I think the issue of ideals is important, but ideals that are not practically attainable” end up hurting more than helping, he said. “You don’t end up strengthening your ideals when you fail to attain them.”

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