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Hill denies Iraq rift with Odierno

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill denied today the substance and details of a report by fellow Foreign Policy blogger Tom Ricks yesterday, which quoted anonymous sources as claiming that Hill’s relationship with U.S. Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno was "deteriorating rapidly" due to fundamental differences over America’s role there. "Ray Odierno and I have ...

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill denied today the substance and details of a report by fellow Foreign Policy blogger Tom Ricks yesterday, which quoted anonymous sources as claiming that Hill's relationship with U.S. Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno was "deteriorating rapidly" due to fundamental differences over America's role there.

"Ray Odierno and I have an excellent relationship," Hill wrote in an e-mail to The Cable. "In addition to working together on all things Iraq in this crucial period of handover from the military to civilians, we smoke cigars together, we talk college and NFL football, we even talk baseball, not easy since Ray is a huge Yankees fan and I am, um, from New England."

Hill said he didn't ever remember meeting Ricks in the Balkans. Moreover, he criticized Ricks for reporting the alleged rift without visiting Iraq since he took over as ambassador and for not contacting him for comment before running with the story.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill denied today the substance and details of a report by fellow Foreign Policy blogger Tom Ricks yesterday, which quoted anonymous sources as claiming that Hill’s relationship with U.S. Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno was "deteriorating rapidly" due to fundamental differences over America’s role there.

"Ray Odierno and I have an excellent relationship," Hill wrote in an e-mail to The Cable. "In addition to working together on all things Iraq in this crucial period of handover from the military to civilians, we smoke cigars together, we talk college and NFL football, we even talk baseball, not easy since Ray is a huge Yankees fan and I am, um, from New England."

Hill said he didn’t ever remember meeting Ricks in the Balkans. Moreover, he criticized Ricks for reporting the alleged rift without visiting Iraq since he took over as ambassador and for not contacting him for comment before running with the story.

Moreover, Hill denied that the rift exists in the first place.

"Whatever ‘source’ he had was obviously not someone privy to my relationship with Ray. In short, Ricks is 180 degrees wrong about our relationship," Hill said, "I know Ray Odierno agrees with me that living and working in this place is tough enough without having to deal with this sort of thing out of Washington."

For his part, Ricks is standing by his reporting and publishing accounts from dissatisfied officials who interacted with Hill when he was the lead North Korea nuclear crisis negotiator.

Odierno himself will have an opportunity to weigh in tomorrow when he testifies before the House Armed Services Committee.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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