Back when people still believed the Niger/yellowcake story, one of the prime exhibits was a chap named Wissam Al-Zahawie, supposed to be the evil Svengali of the Iraq-Niger connection. See, e.g., who else but (link).
But as set forth by Peter Eisner and Knut Royce in The Italian Letter, the charge is almost certainly baseless. For its human content, however, the story turns out to be far more interesting, and indeed, one of the few genuine laff riots in the entire episode. Zahawie, E&R explain,
a fluent English speaker with a refined British accent, was well known in diplomatic circles for his courtly manner and was not considered an insider in the Hussein government. He had joined the Iraqi Foreign Service in 1955, during the period of the monarchy that lasted until a military coup in 1958. Zahawie ascribed his long career to a combination of luck and staying mostly out of the public eye. He was proud to say that he was a member of no political party, and specifically not a memb er of the Baath Party, ruled and controlled by Hussein and his closest allies and family. Nor did he want to be.
He did everything he could in his diplomatic career to separate himself from politics and intrigue. He knew that he would never be given any central job that involved policymaking or brought [him?] close to Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. Zahawie had a reputation of being a persuasive Iraqi nationalist, but he was never considered so trustworthy, he said, as to be “accredited to any country where [
Zahawie did not aspire to a higher diplomatic stature. While he had appeared at the United Nations, he never sought to be the permanent Iraqi ambassador to that body. … Instead, Zahawie actively sought and won the job as
--Peter Eisner and Knute Royce, The Italian Letter 86-8 (2007)
There surely are a thousand good reasons to want to avoid coming to the attention of Saddam Hussein. And I don’t know about you, but I have to admit to a certain grudging admiration for a bureaucratic time-server with such focus and clarity of purpose, knowing that he hangs on to his post not for any service he may perform but only for the private pleasures it may afford. A few more Zahawies and we might not balance the budget, but we might sleep more peacefully at night.