REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- A former senior Iraqi official who pulled the lever to execute Saddam Hussein and helped improve U.S. relations with the Baghdad government was denied entry to the United States last month after U.S. officials apparently questioned his use of multiple passports.
Mowaffak Rubaie was allowed to enter the United States without incident last week, however, and was in Washington on Tuesday for informal meetings at the State Department and the National Security Council.
Rubaie, Iraq’s national security advisor from 2004 to 2009, was detained for 15 hours with his adult son on Feb. 20 at Boston's Logan International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials before being forced to return to London.
He was traveling to Boston to accept the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University and to lecture at the school on the future of U.S.-Iraqi relations.
While in government, Rubaie won a reputation for helping defuse tensions between U.S. generals and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. On Dec. 30, 2006, Rubaie opened the trap door that sent Hussein to his death at the end of the hangman’s rope.
Rubaie said customs officials did not say why he was being detained or refused entry. He complained that he was not allowed to use a telephone or go to the bathroom without an armed guard and was subjected to three pat-down searches.
“I felt really degraded. It was very demeaning,” Rubaie said. “Probably, I am the closest ally of the U.S. in Iraq. The person who has worked most with them for a decade in Iraq and before.”
Jenny Burke, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the agency is prohibited from discussing specific cases.
“Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm, like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals and contraband,” Burke said in a statement.
The rules have made it "exceedingly difficult to get into the U.S., even for people who are close friends of the U.S., which Mowaffak certainly is,” said Daniel Serwer, a retired U.S. diplomat who now teaches at Johns Hopkins University.
“Diplomacy depends very heavily these days on nonofficial contacts," he added. "We are stifling them.”
-- Brian Bennett