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September 19, 2008

Obama And The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Part II

On Monday I blogged about a column in the NY Post claiming that on his visit to Iraq Obama urged the Iraqi government to delay negotiations with the US until a new administration took office.

It looks like the skepticism was the right choice after all.

Lending significant credence to Obama's response is the fact that -- though it's absent from the Post story and other retellings -- in addition to Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, this July meeting was also attended by Bush administration officials such as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the Baghdad embassy's Legislative Affairs advisor Rich Haughton, as well as a Republican senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Attendees of the meeting back Obama's account, including not just Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, but Hagel, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers from both parties. Officials of the Bush administration who were briefed on the meeting by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also support Obama's account and dispute the Post story and McCain attack.

The Post story is "absolutely not true," Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry told ABC News.

…Buttry said that Hagel agrees with Obama's account of the meeting: Obama began the meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by asserting that the United States speaks with one foreign policy voice, and that voice belongs to the Bush administration.

A Bush administration official with knowledge of the meeting says that during the meeting Obama stressed to Maliki that he would not interfere with President Bush's negotiations concerning the US troop presence in Iraq, and that he supports the Bush administration's position on the need to negotiate as soon as possible the Status of Forces Agreement, which deals with among other matters US troops having immunity from local prosecution.

As I noted in my original post, this wasn’t the first time Obama and the Iraqi Foreign Minister had differing opinions on a conversation. If it had happened the way the Post column claims you’d think someone else (not Chuck Hagel but either a committee or embassy staffer) would have come forward at some point to confirm it.

Absent some other form of confirmation, it’s looking like Obama didn’t cross any lines on his trip. Thank Heaven for small favors, I guess.


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posted by DrewM. at 02:55 PM

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