by Andrew Walden
Many analysts believe that the US draw down in Iraq is damaging to Obama’s electoral chances. And now information is emerging that Obama acted to keep troops deployed. In a September 15 New York Post editorial, CNN and BBC contributor Amir Taheri writes that, according to Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Senator Obama in June told visiting Iraqi officials that President Bush’s government was in a ‘”state of weakness and political confusion’” so the negotiations should be postponed until after the election.
According to Zebari, Obama again 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 demanded that Congress should be involved in negotiations - and that an agreement should not be negotiated by the Bush administration in its “state of weakness and political confusion.” Iraqi government officials rejected Obama’s call for delay. Zebari points out: “As an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open.”
Writes Taheri: “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. While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a ‘realistic withdrawal date.’ They declined.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air explains Obama’s actions may be criminal: “Hypocrisy isn’t the issue here; it’s the interference of Obama in military and diplomatic affairs. Just on diplomacy, interfering with the United States in its diplomatic efforts is a Logan Act violation. Interfering with war policy treads on even more serious ground, especially since the primary motivation appears to be winning an election without regard to whether it damages our ability to fight the enemy or drives wedges between us and our ally, the elected, representative government in Baghdad.”
The Obama campaign response to the allegations emanating from the Iraqi governments and US general staff is portrayed in the few media outlets actually covering the story as a flat denial. But in its response, Obama’s campaign admits he had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a “Strategic Framework Agreement” governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said. That is a confirmation of Taheri’s column, not a denial.
As Taheri explains in a second column September 17: “The Obama campaign has objected. While its statement says my article was “filled with distortions,” the rebuttal actually centers on a technical point: the differences between two Iraqi-US accords under negotiation - the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, to set rules governing US military personnel in Iraq) and the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA, to settle the legal basis for the US military presence in Iraq in the months and years ahead)….
Here is how NBC reported Obama’s position on June 16, after his conversation in the US with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: “Obama also told Zebari, he said, that Congress should be involved in any negotiations regarding a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. He suggested it may be better to wait until the next administration to negotiate such an agreement.”
In other words, Obama wanted a delay on the Status of Forces Agreement, not on the Strategic Framework Agreement - as his rebuttal now claims.
The NBC report continues: “Asked by NBC’s Lee Cowan if a timetable for the Status of Forces Agreement was discussed, Obama said, ‘Well he, the foreign minister, had presented a letter requesting an extension of the UN resolution until the end of this year. So that’ s a six-month extension.’”
That Obama was aware that the two accords couldn’t be separated is clear in his June 16 words to NBC: “Obviously, we can’t have US forces operating on the ground in Iraq without some sort of agreement, either a further extension of the UN resolution or some sort of Status of Forces agreement, some strategic framework agreement. As I said before, my concern is that the Bush administration -- in a weakened state politically -- ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it was my administration or Sen. McCain’s administration.”