Bush officials lead Iraq business push
By Roula Khalaf in London
Published: November 9 2009 23:10 | Last updated: November 9 2009 23:10
Senior Bush administration figures including Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Baghdad, and Jay Garner, the retired general who led reconstruction efforts immediately after the war, are leading a new business push into Iraq.
The two one-time senior officials are among a raft of former US soldiers and diplomats either leveraging their war experience helping foreign companies to enter the Iraqi market or starting businesses there themselves.
Mr Khalilzad’s Khalilzad Associates this year set up offices in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Erbil from which it is advising companies wanting to do business in Iraq. The company declined requests for interviews but a spokesperson confirmed the establishment of its offices and that Mr Khalilzad, also former US ambassador to the UN, had made several trips to the country this year.
Mr Garner, the de-facto US governor of Iraq after the war, sat on the board of Vast Exploration when it bought 37 per cent of a Kurdistan oil block two years ago and remains an adviser to the Canadian company. “Jay is very well known in Kurdistan and Iraq and it was useful to the company,” said a spokesman for Vast.
As security has improved, both the Iraqi and US governments have stepped up efforts to promote closer business ties.
But the move by former Bush administration figures is seen as controversial, especially as many in the Arab world remain convinced the main target of the 2003 invasion was to control the country’s oil resources.
“Officials who move on to do business where they recently had significant political influence will raise public suspicion even if nothing is actually wrong,” said Karin Lissakers, director of the Revenue Watch Institute, a New York watchdog.