Monday, September 15, 2008

Did Obama interfere in American negotiations with Iraq?

Here comes a shocking accusation of what Obama tried to do when he traveled to Iraq earlier this year.
WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

"However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open." Zebari says.

Though Obama claims the US presence is "illegal," he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the "weakened Bush administration," Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.
If this is true, it's a disturbing interference in American foreign policy. Whether Obama likes it or not, Bush is still president and a senator shouldn't be trying to interfere with delicate negotiations under way. And, as Amir Taheri pints out, if Obama had succeeded in getting the Iraqis to postpone their negotiations until a PResident Obama might take office, it would delay even longer Obama's hoped-for withdrawal from Iraq.
Supposing he wins, Obama's administration wouldn't be fully operational before February - and naming a new ambassador to Baghdad and forming a new negotiation team might take longer still.

By then, Iraq will be in the throes of its own campaign season. Judging by the past two elections, forming a new coalition government may then take three months. So the Iraqi negotiating team might not be in place until next June.

Then, judging by how long the current talks have taken, restarting the process from scratch would leave the two sides needing at least six months to come up with a draft accord. That puts us at May 2010 for when the draft might be submitted to the Iraqi parliament - which might well need another six months to pass it into law.

Thus, the 2010 deadline fixed by Obama is a meaningless concept, thrown in as a sop to his anti-war base.
I'm sure that the media will want to jump all over this story and ask Obama if, in the full flush of his triumphant world tour he undertook to interfere with such delicate negotiations. And some of Obama's supporters might want to know if he was really acting in such a way to delay our withdrawal from Iraq.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign vigorously denies this allegation. And the McCain campaign has jumped on it.

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