Update (Friday, September 19, 2008): Jake Tapper of ABC News is reporting that Bush Administration officials support Barack Obama’s version of events… Details below the fold…
If this is true somebody’s got some splainin to do:
OBAMA TRIED TO STALL GIS’ IRAQ WITHDRAWAL
By AMIR TAHER, New York Post, September 15, 2008
WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.
According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama 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 insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops – and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its “state of weakness and political confusion.”
“However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open.” Zebari says.
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. Read the rest…
Hat tip: Dan Spencer @ RedState.
In the New York Post, conservative Iranian-born columnist Amir Taheri quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying the Democrat made the demand when he visited Baghdad in July, while publicly demanding an early withdrawal.
“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, according to Taheri. . . .
But Obama’s national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri’s article bore “as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial.”
In fact, Obama 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.
In the face of resistance from Bush, the Democrat has long said that any such agreement must be reviewed by the US Congress as it would tie a future administration’s hands on Iraq.
It doesn’t sound like much of denial to me either.
Update (September 17, 2008): Amir Taheri has another column today’s in the New York Post where he addresses the Obama campaign’s denial point by point:
IN Monday’s Post, I discussed how Barack Obama, during his July trip, had asked Iraqi leaders not to finalize an agreement vital to the future of US forces in Iraq – and how the effect of such a delay would be to postpone the departure of the US from Iraq beyond the time Obama himself calls for.
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).
Update (Friday, September 19, 2008): Jake Tapper of ABC News is reporting that Bush Administration officials support Barack Obama’s version of events:
Earlier this week, the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seized upon a column in the New York Post that described Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as having urged Iraqi leaders in a private meeting to delay coming to an agreement with the Bush administration on the status of U.S. troops.
“Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence,” Post columnist Amir Tehari wrote, quoting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who told the Post that Obama during his meeting with Iraqi leaders in July “asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington.”
The charge — that Obama asked the Iraqis to delay signing off on a “Status of Forces Agreement,” thus delaying US troop withdrawal and interfering in U.S. foreign policy — has been picked up on the internet, talk radio and by Republicans including the McCain campaign, which seized on the story as possible evidence of duplicity.
The Obama campaign said that the Post report consisted of “outright distortions.”
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.
Bravo Zulus to Jack Tapper for getting to the bottom of this.