Did Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama attempt to dally in U.S. foreign and military policy during his first trip to Iraq in July?
According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Amir Taheri’s op-ed in Monday’s New York Post, Obama used his trip to privately lobby Iraqi government officials to delay an agreement that would reduce the number of American soldiers in Iraq, while at the same time publicly calling for a unilateral withdrawal.
The delay was a “key theme” of his discussions with Iraqi leaders according to Zebari, and Obama reportedly asked those leaders to delay an agreement until after the U.S. presidential election. Zebari claimed that in doing so, Obama attempted to argue that it was not in Iraq’s interest to negotiate with the current adminstration, and insisted that the U.S. Congress should be involved.
During the same visit to Iraq, Obama may have also tried to convince a series of American commanders, including General David Petraeus, to offer a “realistic withdrawal date” to pull soldiers out of Iraq. All commanders reportedly declined.
General Petraeus is presently engaged in a change of command in Iraq, leaving Lieutenant General Ray Odierno in charge of Coalition forces as Petraeus is promoted to lead U.S. Central Command, overseeing both the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns. PJ Media was unable to confirm through official military channels if Obama did press U.S. commanders for a withdrawal date, and considering the military’s duty to remain apolitical they may not be free to even confirm or deny such a claim.
When asked for comment, the duty officer for the Multi-National Force Iraq Press Desk candidly explained via email that:
I truly do not know the answer to this question and would not expect to be able to find out if this happened or not. The military is not a political group. We take our direction from our current commanders, which Mr. Obama is not one of. He may have had discussion with senior military leaders while he was here but the topic of those discussion were not made public by MNF-I.
If the claims in the article are correct, Barack Obama was telling Iraqis to keep the number of American troops at current levels, while pressuring American officers for a withdrawal date and telling the far left anti-war base of his supporters that he was pledged to a nearly unconditional withdrawal.