U.S. Troop Withdrawal Motivated by Iraqi Insistence, Not U.S. Choice

U.S. Troop Withdrawal Motivated by Iraqi Insistence, Not U.S. Choice

By Yochi J. Dreazen

                                    Updated: October 21, 2011 |  4:21 p.m.
October 21, 2011 |  1:42 p.m.

Evan Vucci/AP

President Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House on Friday.

President Obama’s speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: The troops aren’t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They’re leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay.

Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq but had instead spent the past few months trying to extend it. A 2008 security deal between Washington and Baghdad called for all American forces to leave Iraq by the end of the year, but the White House — anxious about growing Iranian influence and Iraq’s continuing political and security challenges — publicly and privately tried to sell the Iraqis on a troop extension. As recently as last week, the White House was trying to persuade the Iraqis to allow 2,000-3,000 troops to stay beyond the end of the year.

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Those efforts had never really gone anywhere; one senior U.S. military official told National Journal last weekend that they were stuck at “first base” because of Iraqi reluctance to hold substantive talks.

That impasse makes Obama’s speech at the White House on Friday less a dramatic surprise than simple confirmation of what had long been expected by observers of the moribund talks between the administration and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which believes its own security forces are more than up to the task of protecting the country from terror attacks originating within its borders or foreign incursions from neighboring countries.

The White House said Obama was pleased with the coming troop withdrawal because it kept to his “core commitment” – frequently enunciated during the campaign – of pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. “We never wanted a residual force in Iraq,” a senior administration official insisted.

In Washington, many Republican lawmakers had spent recent weeks criticizing Obama for offering to keep a maximum of 3,000 troops in Iraq, far less than the 10,000-15,000 recommended by top American commanders in Iraq. That political point-scoring helped obscure that the choice wasn’t Obama’s to make. It was the Iraqis’, and recent interviews with officials in the country provided vivid evidence of just how unpopular the U.S. military presence there has become — and just how badly the Iraqi political leadership wanted those troops to go home

Who Lost Iraq?

Who Lost Iraq?
Frank Gaffney
Monday, April 05, 2010

Back in February, Vice President Joseph Biden declared: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Even for a politician much given to strategic ineptitude compounded by foot-in-mouth disease, that was a doozy.

As has been pointed out innumerable times since, if Iraq turns out to be a truly “great achievement” in any ordinary sense of the word, Mr. Biden and Barack Obama – two of the most insistent opponents of George W. Bush’s efforts to consolidate Iraq’s liberation – are among the last people in Washington who should take such credit.

Worse yet, unfortunately for the Iraqi people and others who love freedom, it looks increasingly as though the Obama administration will have the loss of Iraq as one of its most signal accomplishments.

Three murderous suicide bombings in Baghdad over the weekend are but the latest indication of the renewed reality there: Those determined to use violence to destabilize the country, foment sectarian strife and shape Iraq’s destiny can do so with impunity.

The fact that the Iranian embassy was one of the targets suggests Sunni extremist groups – perhaps including the once-defeated al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) – are responsible for this round of attacks. Elsewhere in the country though, Shiite death squads that may or may not have ties to the pro-Iranian factions currently running the country are ruthlessly liquidating prominent tribal leaders and others associated with the movement in Anbar Province known as The Awakening. The latter were instrumental to the success of the U.S. surge and to the opportunity thus created for an Iraqi future vastly superior to its despotic and chaotic past.

Among the objects of the growing violence are individuals who stood for office in the recent parliamentary elections. This amounts to post facto disenfranchisement of the Iraqi voters whose turnout of over 60 percent – in the face of threats by anti-democratic forces that voting would be deemed a capital offense – powerfully testified to their desire to exercise the right enjoyed by no others in the Mideast except Israelis: to have a real say in their government and future.

Sadly, all other things being equal, that popular ambition seems unlikely to be realized. There is an unmistakable vacuum of power being created by President Obama’s determination to withdraw U.S. “combat” forces no matter what, starting with the cities a few months ago and in short order from the rest of the country.

Increasingly, that vacuum is being filled by Iran and its proxies on the one hand and, on the other, insurgent Sunni forces, both those aligned with al Qaeda and those that have, at least until recently, been suppressing the AQI. On what might be called the third hand, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing their own internal problems as well as an increasingly ill-concealed inclination to assert their independence from the rest of the country.

The signal of American abandonment was made the more palpable by Team Obama’s decision to dispatch Christopher Hill as its ambassador to Iraq. Hill is the diplomat best known for his determination during the Bush 43 years to appease, rather than thwart, the despot most closely enabling the realization of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. The unreliability of the United States as an ally – a hallmark of the Obama presidency more generally – is reinforcing the sense that it is every man for himself in Iraq.

The prospects of any “great achievement” in Iraq are being further diminished by the direction to the Pentagon to shift personnel and equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan. The President himself reinforced that commitment during his speech to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base last week. The detailed planning and ponderous logistics associated with such a transfer increasingly foreclose options to change course. Our commanders will soon be hard pressed to preserve today’s deployments of American forces in Iraq, let alone to have them take up once again the sorts of positions in the urban areas that they held to such therapeutic effect during the surge.

The inadvisability of relocating U.S. forces from the strategically vital Iraqi theater to the marginal Afghan one is made all the greater by another grim prospect: The mounting evidence that our troops will be put in harm’s way in Afghanistan simply to preside over the surrender of that country to one strain of Shariah-adherent Taliban or another. There, too, President Obama has publicly promised to begin reversing his mini-surge by next summer, again irrespective of conditions on the ground. And his insistence on “engaging” at least some of those who allowed the country to be used as a launching pad for al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks augurs ill for the Afghan people (especially the female ones) – and for us.

It may be that Team Obama is calculating that the American people are so sick of these conflicts and the associated costs in blood and treasure that they will consider cutting our losses to be a “great achievement” – irrespective of the consequences. After all, a generation ago their ideological forefathers led the United States in abandoning the South Vietnamese, without obvious political fall-out here at home. To the extent the Republicans are increasingly signaling a determination to run next Fall on a platform silent on national security matters, they may be right, at least in the short run.

There should be no doubt, however: The repercussions of the Obama administration losing Iraq will cost us dearly in the future as adherents to Shariah around the world are reinforced in their conviction of that our defeat and submission is preordained. Even if, at the moment, we cannot fully comprehend the implications of such a perception, we will know from here on out whose “great achievement” precipitated the resulting horror for America and the rest of what was once the Free World.

Election ’08 Backgrounder

  

Financial Crisis | Iraq | Defense | Background & Character | Judges & Courts | Energy

 

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Quick Facts:

  • Democrats created the mortgage crisis by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them.
  • In 2006, McCain sponsored a bill to fix the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Barney Frank and other Democrats successfully opposed it.
  • Obama was one of the highest recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations in Congress.

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IRAQ


Quick Facts:

  • When the U.S. was on the verge of losing in Iraq, McCain chose to stand and fight.  Obama chose retreat.
  • Even after the surge succeeded, Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran he would still oppose it if he had the chance to do it all over again.

Related Editorials

 

DEFENSE

Quick Facts:

  • Obama has promised to significantly cut defense spending, including saying “I will slow our development of future combat systems.”
  • John McCain has vowed: “We must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies.”

Related Editorials

Obama Video: Watch Now

 

 

BACKGROUND & CHARACTER

Quick Facts:

  • Obama voted “present” 135 times as a state senator, and according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “gained a reputation for skipping tough votes.”
  • McCain has taken stances unpopular with his own party and/or the public on controversial issues, including immigration, campaign finance reform, judicial nominations, the Iraq War and more.

Related Editorials

 

 

JUDGES & COURTS


Quick Facts:

  • In a 2001 interview, Obama said he regretted that the Supreme Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.”
  • In the same interview, Obama criticized the Supreme Court because it “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”
  • Obama has focused on empathy, rather than legal reasoning and restraint, as his basis for appointing judges, saying, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy…to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”
  • McCain opposes judicial activism, saying, “my nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power.”

Related Editorials

Obama 2001 Interview: Listen Now

 

ENERGY


Quick Facts:

  • McCain has proposed building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 and is in favor of drilling in sectors of the Outer Continental Shelf.
  • Obama has refused to take a stand, saying only “we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix” and he will “look at” drilling offshore.

Related Editorials

»
McCain: The Energy Candidate

» McCain On Nukes: Yes We Can
» Breaking The Back Of High Oil

 

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Obama tried to sway Iraqis on Bush deal

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama tried to sway Iraqis on Bush deal

EXCLUSIVE:

At the same time the Bush administration was negotiating a still elusive agreement to keep the U.S. military in Iraq, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tried to convince Iraqi leaders in private conversations that the president shouldn’t be allowed to enact the deal without congressional approval.

Mr. Obama’s conversations with the Iraqi leaders, confirmed to The Washington Times by his campaign aides, began just two weeks after he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June and stirred controversy over the appropriateness of a White House candidate’s contacts with foreign governments while the sitting president is conducting a war.

Some of the specifics of the conversations remain the subject of dispute. Iraqi leaders purported to The Times that Mr. Obama urged Baghdad to delay an agreement with Mr. Bush until next year when a new president will be in office – a charge the Democratic campaign denies.

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Mr. Obama spoke June 16 to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari when he was in Washington, according to both the Iraqi Embassy in Washington and the Obama campaign. Both said the conversation was at Mr. Zebari’s request and took place on the phone because Mr. Obama was traveling.

However, the two sides differ over what Mr. Obama said.

“In the conversation, the senator urged Iraq to delay the [memorandum of understanding] between Iraq and the United States until the new administration was in place,” said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.

He said Mr. Zebari replied that any such agreement would not bind a new administration. “The new administration will have a free hand to opt out,” he said the foreign minister told Mr. Obama.

Mr. Sumaidaie did not participate in the call, he said, but stood next to Mr. Zebari during the conversation and was briefed by him immediately afterward.

The call was not recorded by either side, and Mr. Zebari did not respond to repeated telephone and e-mail messages requesting direct comment.

Mr. Obama has called for a phased U.S. withdrawal of all but a residual force from Iraq over 16 months, a position the Iraqi government appears to have embraced.

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U.S. and Iraqi officials have been struggling for months to finalize a deal that will allow U.S. troops to remain after Dec. 31, when a U.N. mandate sanctioning the military presence expires. Iraqi officials have said that the main impediment is agreement over a timeline for U.S. redeployment and immunity from Iraqi prosecution for U.S. troops and civilians.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Mr. Obama does not object to a short-term status of forces agreement, or SOFA.

Mr. Obama told Mr. Zebari in June that a SOFA “should be completed before January and it must include immunity for U.S. troops,” Miss Morigi wrote in an e-mail.

However, the Democratic nominee said a broader strategic framework agreement governing a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq “should be vetted by Congress,” she wrote.

She said Mr. Obama said the same thing when he met in July with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Mr. Zebari in Baghdad.

A recent article in the New York Post quoted Mr. Zebari as saying that Mr. Obama asked Iraqi leaders in July to delay any agreement on a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq until the next U.S. president takes office.

Miss Morigi denied this. She said the request for Senate vetting was bipartisan and noted that the first Obama-Zebari conversation took place 12 days after four other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – including Republican Sens. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska – wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging consultation over any agreements committing U.S. troops and civilian contractors to Iraq “for an extended period of time.”

When Mr. Obama spoke to Mr. Zebari, he was speaking in his capacity as a senator and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Miss Morigi said. “It’s obvious that others are trying to mischaracterize Obama’s position, [but] on numerous occasions he has made it perfectly clear that the United States only has one president at a time and that the administration speaks with one voice.”

Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who accompanied Mr. Obama in Iraq along with Mr. Hagel, said they made “no suggestion of any type of delay” in any agreements.

A congressional aide who was also present and spoke on the condition of anonymity said the senators asked for a congressional role similar to that required by the Iraqi Constitution for Iraq’s parliament.

Still, the fact that the Illinois Democrat on June 3 clinched enough delegates to be assured the Democratic presidential nomination gives his comments special force – something that also applies to the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key proponent of the surge of extra U.S. forces to Iraq last year.

As a U.S. senator, Mr. Obama “has a foot in both camps,” said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “It’s within the jurisdiction of his committee and something he’s entitled to speak about. It doesn’t raise a red flag for me.”

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment on the matter.

Leslie Phillips, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, also declined to comment even though an embassy note-taker was present during the senators’ meeting in Iraq. “The embassy’s role is purely to facilitate the meetings,” she said.

Presidential nominees traditionally have not intervened personally in foreign-policy disputes, although campaign surrogates have done so.

Historian Robert Dallek has documented meetings with South Vietnamese diplomats in 1968 by Republican vice-presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault, widow of Gen. Claire Chennault, the commander of “Flying Tiger” forces in China during World War II.

Mr. Dallek, author of “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973,” obtained tapes of the conversations from bugs the Johnson administration had placed in the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.

Negotiations to end the Vietnam War were taking place in Paris at the time between the Johnson administration and the North and South Vietnamese.

Mr. Agnew and Mrs. Chennault “signaled the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal with Richard Nixon as president instead of the Democrat” Hubert Humphrey, Mr. Dallek said.

“Johnson was furious and said that Nixon was guilty of treason,” Mr. Dallek said, but neither he nor Mr. Humphrey disclosed the matter before the election, which Mr. Nixon won.

Thanks To 3 Democrat Senators Our “Evil Big Oil Co.s” Won’t Be Pumping Iraqi Oil, But China Will Be

Hussein’s Own People Leak To Press That He Tried To Negotiate With Iraq Behind Bush’s Back, Delay Troop Returns – Has 5 Hour Meeting To Invent A Workable Lie!

OBAMA IN THE EPICENTER: Will he admit mistake in opposing the “surge” in Iraq?

 http://joelrosenberg.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OBAMA IN THE EPICENTER: Will he admit mistake in opposing the “surge” in Iraq?

 

UDPATE: Joel will be on Janet Parshall’s nationally syndicated radio show at 2:15pm eastern today — Tuesday — to discuss the Iranian threat to the U.S. and Israel
————————–
The race for President of the United States is currently in a dead heat. I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this thing, and anyone who tells you they do is just guessing. Remember: a year ago, the pundits said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “sure thing” to win the Democratic nomination, and Sen. John McCain was a “sure thing” not to win the GOP nomination. The pundits were wrong then. I wouldn’t put much stock in them now….That said, Sen. Barack Obama faces a very real and daunting hurdle to victory in November. Only 48% of Americans think he would be a strong and decisive enough Commander-in-Chief to lead the U.S. through what could be a tumultous next four years, according to a poll released last week by ABC News. Another 48% are convinced Sen. Obama would specifically not be a good Commander-in-Chief. By contrast, 72% of Americans believe Sen. John McCain would lead our military forces well, while only 25% say he would not. Understand that gap and you’ll understand precisely why Obama this week is in the epicenter….With all eyes fixed on Israel and her neighbors and the conflicts that consume them, the junior Senator from Illinois realizes his international record does not inspire confidence. He has no military experience and precious little foreign policy experience, certainly none to compare with to Sen. McCain, a bonafide war hero who has been engaged in every major foreign policy debate of the last quarter century. To win in November, Obama has to close that perception gap. He has to convince more Americans that he is ready for whatever comes next, be it more terrorism from al Qaeda, or an orderly transition of power in Iraq, or — heaven forbid — a full blown war with Iran. So he is meeting with foreign leaders as well as U.S. military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Israel and hoping at the very least that the pictures Americans see on TV and in the newspapers from his whirlwind tour will cause them to begin to see him as a world leader and ease their many doubts….While it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, even a week’s worth of photos may not be enough. After all, the Senator’s core problem is not simply that he lacks the requisite experience. It’s the widespread perception that he lacks the necessary judgment when it comes to the most troubling issues of the Middle East. Consider two examples, Iraq and Iran.
—————————–
IRAQ — From the moment President Bush announced that he was taking Sen. McCain’s advice to send more U.S. troops to Iraq to crush the insurgency and restore order, Sen. Obama has been a fierce critic of the “surge,” arguing not only that it would not help, but that it would actually make the situation worse. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going tosolve the sectarian violence there,” Obama said on January 17, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” Eighteen months later, the results are in: the “surge” has been an astounding success. Things didn’t get worse. They got better. Much better. Violent attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians are down 80%. More than 90% of Iraqi terroritory is now quite safe. More than 70% of combat operations in Iraq are now led by Iraqi forces, with U.S. assistance. Yet Sen. Obama struggles to acknowlege the success and refuses to describe his decision to vote against the “surge” as a mistake. Consider this exchange yesterday with Terry Moran of ABC News.
Moran: “‘[T]he surge of U.S. troops, combined with ordinary Iraqis’ rejection of both al Qaeda and Shiite extremists have transformed the country. Attacks are down more than 80% nationwide. U.S. combat casualties have plummeted, five this month so far, compared with 78 last July, and Baghdad has a pulse again.’ If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you — would you support the surge?”
Obama: “No, because — keep in mind that -”
Moran: “You wouldn’t?”
Obama: “Well, no, keep — these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. Hindsight is 20/20. I think what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate, because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.”
Moran: “And so, when pressed, Barack Obama says he still would have opposed the surge.”
—————————-
IRAN — In May of this year, Sen. Obama told a town hall meeting that he thought of Iran as small and relatively harmless country, hardly a major threat to the United States, Israel or our allies in the Middle East. “I mean think about it.,” he told a group of supporters. “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us….You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military.” His aides and advisors were horrified. Even Sen. Clinton conceded Iran was a major threat — particularly given the regime’s lust for nuclear weapons –though she refused to offer a plan to neutralize the threat. So the next day, the Senator flip-flopped. He told a new audience a new story, that he actually does believe Iran is a threat. But Obama’s original, unscripted remarks were telling. In his heart, Sen. Obama does not actually believe the regime led by the Ayatollah Khameini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are deeply and inherently dangerous. He sees Iran as a nuisance, not a forthcoming nuclear-armed power. That is why he is so adamant about wanting to sit down and negotiate personally with Ahmadinejad, without preconditions. His official website actually boasts about this position. “Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions,” it reads. But to what end?….Has Sen. Obama actually studied the speeches of Khameini and Ahmadinejad? Has he studied their eschatology, or end times theology? Has he been properly briefed on how this eschatology is driving Iranian foreign policy? No one who truly understands what the current Iranian leadership believes could honestly conclude that they can be successfully negotiated with, much less deterred. Ahmadinejad, after all, believes it is his God-given mission to annihilate the U.S., Israel and Judeo-Christian civilization as we know. Why? To create the conditions that will bring the Islamic Messiah known as the Mahdi or the “12th Imam” to earth. Ahmadinejad is not just another power-hungry dictator in the mold of the Soviet or Chinese leaders of yore. He is a Shia Islamic fascist. He believes his life destiny is to kill millions of Jews and Christians and usher in an Islamic caliphate. He believes he is a John-the-Baptist, a forerunner, of the Islamic Messiah. If he dies, he believes he will spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins. But he doesn’t really believe he’s going to die. He believes he has been chosen for a divine appointment, and that nothing can stop him. That is what makes him so dangerous. Unfortunately, too many Washington politicians — Sen. Obama included — do not understand this….Bottom line: I am glad Sen. Obama and his team are traveling through the epicenter this week. My prayer is that aside from all the lights and cameras and political stagecraft, the Senator is able to hear and discern true wisdom about the actual conditions and trendlines in the region. I hope he is able to come away with a new sense of the high stakes of American failure or success in Iraq, and a palpable sense of the rising threat from Iran. The eyes of the nations are riveted on the Middle East for a reason. The future of the world increasingly depends on what happens there, and the future of America depends a great deal on having a President who understands the times and knows what the U.S. should do.