with Jim Lobe
Of the top five outside international appointments
made by embattled World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz during his nearly two-year
tenure, three were senior political appointees of right-wing governments that
provided strong backing for U.S. policy in Iraq.
The latest appointment came just last month when former Jordanian Deputy Prime
Minister Marwan Muasher was named senior vice president for external affairs.
Muasher served as King Abdullah's ambassador here in Washington in the run-up
to the Iraq war in 2002 and reportedly played a key role in ensuring Amman's
cooperation in the March 2003 invasion.
During and after the invasion, when he served first as foreign minister and
then as deputy prime minister, he was considered among Washington's staunchest
supporters in an increasingly hostile Arab world.
Muasher's appointment came nine months after Wolfowitz named former Spanish
foreign minister Ana Palacio as the Bank's senior vice president and general
counsel. As foreign minister, she was an outspoken proponent of the U.S.-led
Iraq invasion, to which her government, led by former Prime Minister Jose Maria
Aznar, contributed 1,500 troops.
Also in June 2006, Wolfowitz named former Salvadoran Finance Minister Juan
Jose Daboub as one of the Bank's two managing directors. In addition to his
financial post, Daboub served as chief of staff to former President Francisco
Flores when, as a charter member of the U.S.-led "Coalition of the Willing",
he sent nearly 400 Salvadoran combat troops to Iraq, more than any other developing
Wolfowitz is currently fending off growing calls, particularly from Bank staff,
non-government organizations and a number of former senior Bank officials, for
his resignation over charges that he improperly negotiated a promotion and compensation
package for his romantic partner, career Bank staffer Shaha Riza, who was subsequently
seconded to the U.S. State Department.
Wolfowitz, who became the Bank's president in June 2005, has long insisted
that his own role as deputy defense secretary under U.S. President George W.
Bush, in which he was a key architect of the Iraq war, would never influence
his decisions at the Bank.
As recently as Thursday, as finance and development ministers began gathering
here for the annual Spring Meetings of the Bank and its sister institution,
the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Wolfowitz again denied that his connection
to the Iraq war has played any role in his work at the Bank and suggested that
the calls by staff for him resign were motivated at least in part by antiwar
"For people who disagree with things they associate with me in my previous
job," he said, "I am not in my previous job."
But persistent efforts by Wolfowitz to recruit a new country manager for Iraq
despite concerns over staff security there as well as the Bank's attempts
last month to suppress reports about an incident in which a Bank employee was
injured in Baghdad, apparently to avoid derailing his recruitment efforts
have lent credence to critics' charges that he has been more than eager to line
up the institution and its resources behind U.S. policy there.
The fact that Wolfowitz also took with him to the Bank several key right-wing
Republican aides none with any development experience who had
worked closely with him on Iraq-related issues while he was at the Pentagon
also bolstered that impression.
There have been reports of elaborate off-the-record efforts on Wolfowitz's
part, during his tenure at the Bank, to persuade prominent journalists that
the administration's prewar allegations of an operational link between Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were indeed true.
It is in that context that Wolfowitz's appointments of non-U.S. individuals
who were not already working for the Bank to top posts appear significant.
"I believe that Paul Wolfowitz has used his tenure in part to reward those
governments and individuals who were particularly helpful to the U.S. in the
Iraq War," said Steven Clemens, director of the American Strategy Program
of the New America Foundation, who has closely followed Wolfowitz's career on
his much-read blog, TheWashingtonNote.com.
"To me, that's a completely irresponsible approach to managing one of
the world's most important economic development institutions," he added.
Since taking the reins, Wolfowitz has made five senior non-U.S. outside appointments
at the Bank. In addition to Muasher, Palacio, and Daboub, they include Vincenzo
La Via, a former Italian finance ministry official who serves as the Bank's
chief financial officer, and Lars Thunell, a Swede who serves as executive vice
president of the Bank's International Finance Corporation, a post for which
the Bank president traditionally defers to the choice of the Bank's major European
In contrast to the last two, Muasher, Palacio and Daboub were all political
appointees in governments that strongly backed the Bush administration on Iraq
and on other issues, as well.
Daboub was a senior member of the ruling right-wing ARENA party in El Salvador
and effectively ran the country's economic policy from 1999 to 2004.
"He really was [then president Francisco] Flores' right-hand man,"
said Roberto Rubio, president of the Fundacion Nacional para Desarrollo in San
Salvador, " and, as such, pursued the most orthodox economic policy in
the country's history, closely tied to U.S. policies."
According to Rubio, he was also a frequent visitor to Washington, where he
founded the Instituto America Libre to advocate free market policies. At a conference
here in 2005, he called on Washington to "act more aggressively on the
problem of security that South American populists represent to the United States
and to other Latin American countries that have not fallen into leftist hands
Palacio, an outspoken supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, lost her position
as foreign minister after the 2004 defeat of Aznar's Partido Popular in 2004.
Before her appointment to the Bank, she repeatedly denounced the decision of
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to withdraw Spanish forces from
Iraq and praised the persistence of both Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In an interview with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute's magazine,
American Enterprise, in late 2005, she accused Zapatero of "plung(ing)
Spain into Third World politics" by allying it more closely with France
and Germany than with Britain and the U.S.
As Jordan's ambassador here before the Gulf War and later as foreign minister,
Muasher met with then-deputy defense secretary Wolfowitz on at least several
occasions, according to the Pentagon's website.
Despite King Abdullah II's public criticism of the war, Washington found a
"willing" if behind-the-scenes ally in Muasher. While
Jordan, like other Arab countries, did not send troops to Iraq, it quietly provided
intelligence and other critical support for the U.S. before and during the war.
It has also helped train thousands of Iraqi security personnel and tightened
control of its borders to prevent the infiltration of Sunni fighters after the
As deputy prime minister, Muashar was charged with implementing the country's
"reform" agenda, a portfolio that required frequent contact with U.S.
officials, including former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East
and South Asian Affairs Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick
Cheney with whom Wolfowitz was closely allied during Bush's first term.
Washington increased its aid to Jordan by some 300 million dollars in 2003
to a total of 450 million dollars. In 2006, it received 500 million dollars
split between economic and military assistance.
Jordan's benefits from the war included oil subsidies from Gulf States, substantial
new U.S. aid, a booming real estate sector, and a growing Iraq-related trade
and transport account and, apparently, the appointment of Muasher to
the World Bank's vice presidency.
"It's not at all surprising given Wolfowitz' actions so far within the
Bank and the Bush administration's propensity to reward allies and cronies,"
said Doug Hellinger, co-director of the Development GAP and a veteran Bank observer.
(Inter Press Service)