WASHINGTON, Mar 2 (IPS) - In a move that has surprised many foreign policy analysts here, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has appointed a prominent neo-conservative hawk and leading champion of the Iraq war to the post of State Department Counselor.
Eliot A. Cohen, who teaches military history at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) here and has also served on the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board (DPB) since 2001, will take up the position next month that was left vacant late last year by Rice's long-time confidant and "realist" thinker, Philip Zelikow...
"Eliot brings a lot to the table in terms of being a counselor, being somebody who can be an intellectual sounding board for her [Rice]," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in confirming Cohen's appointment Friday.
Some analysts here, however, said they thought the appointment was designed instead to reduce or pre-empt criticism from neo-conservatives and other hawks in and outside the administration for the direction she hopes to take U.S. policy, particularly in the Middle East. With no operational responsibilities, the State Department Counselor can be used -- or ignored -- at the secretary's discretion.
"Condi may feel she needs to have a neo-con right next to her to protect her flanks," said Chris Nelson, editor of the widely read Washington insider newsletter, The Nelson Report...
"Bringing on Cohen could help inoculate her from criticism by the Cheney camp," agreed Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Programme at the New America Foundation in a reference to the vice president and the neo-conservatives and other hawks who surround him. "One of the things that's been consistent is that Rice never takes Cheney head-on and is very careful not to take on people who might antagonise him..."
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