A month after a Beaverton cabbie skidded into the world spotlight through his association with the self-appointed mayor of Baghdad, Jawdat Obeidi's present remains as mysterious as his past.
Obeidi's name first surfaced April 21, in a Washington Post story on Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, the man who proclaimed himself mayor of Baghdad without the benefit of an electoral process. A retired general in Saddam Hussein's army, Obeidi was mentioned as Zubaidi's "chief deputy." According to the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Obeidi traveled to the Middle East with U.S. forces as an interpreter during the war with Iraq. Locals impressed by his American ties aided his advancement in the post-war political scene.
His moment of fame was short-lived. Both Zubaidi and his right-hand man were scooped up on April 28 by U.S. soldiers irked at Zubaidi's continued claims to power. Those in the know say Obeidi was transferred with Zubaidi to an internment facility outside Baghdad and released 48 hours later. But no one can find him. In fact, no one really seems to know what was this international mover-and-shaker was doing in Oregon.
The Post story reported that Obeidi "runs a limousine company in Portland, Ore." A KOIN-TV story broadcast April 28, the day Zubaidi was nabbed, claimed Obeidi worked as a town-car driver at Portland International Airport.
But Port of Portland officials, who oversee cab and town-car service at PDX, have no record of Obeidi. Local limo companies in the area were similarly stumped.
Calls to the Portland and Beaverton license regulators turned up no current or expired licenses for Jawdat Obeidi, Jawdat al-Obeidi, or Obeidi Jawdat. A national and public records search on OPEN online, a public-records database, drew a blank as well.
Staffers for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden had no information on the Iraqi enigma, nor did the offices of U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Portland) or David Wu (Beaverton). The Beaverton mayor's office came up equally short, as did the Beaverton and Portland police departments.
Obeidi is less of a cipher in the local Iraqi community, where acquaintances regard him as a bit of a rake. "His brother is a nice guy," says one acquaintance, "but Jawdat is a liar." Friends note Obeidi's penchant for exaggerating his military past and his entrepreneurial present. The "limo company" mentioned by the Post apparently amounted to one car and one driver--himself.