Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Obama camp confirms troop pullout delay plan

Spokeswoman denies report; ends up affirming main claim
September 16, 2008

The Obama campaign issued an angry denial to a report yesterday that the Democratic presidential candidate privately urged Iraqi leaders to delay U.S. troop withdrawals, but the statement essentially confirmed the story. Responding to a column by Iranian-born analyst Amir Taheri in the New York Post, Obama spokeswoman Wendy Morigi insisted Obama "has never urged a delay in negotiations, nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades."

But in the same statement, Morigi said Obama had told the Iraqis they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of U.S. troops until after President Bush leaves office, the Associated Press reported.

In his column, Taheri writes that he interviewed Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who confirmed Obama met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad to urge a delay in the withdrawal of American forces.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation of a new administration," Zebari reportedly said.

Taheri states Obama insisted it was in Iraq's best interest to avoid an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

That private position would be a stark contrast to Obama's public record.

"The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops," Obama said last year at a university in Iowa. "Not in six months or one year – now."

In January of last year, Obama offered legislation on the floor of the Senate called the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, which called for troop withdrawals to begin in May 2007 and to conclude by March 2008.

And in his New York Times editorial released the same month the senator toured the Middle East, Obama wrote, "The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated."

Taheri reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's advisers wonder if Obama is privately working to delay troop withdrawal until after the election in order to claim credit – should Obama win the presidency – for ending the war.

"Indeed, say Talabani's advisers," reports Taheri, "a President Obama might be tempted to appropriate the victory that America has already won in Iraq by claiming that his intervention transformed failure into success."

The Obama campaign has not responded to WND's request for a response to the Post column.

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