Sen. Barack Obama began his world tour in the Middle East. In an unprecedented effort by a presidential candidate, Obama has embarked on a tour that will include Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, Germany, France, and England. He will use this trip to shore up his foreign policy credentials and give the world a glimpse of the type of diplomacy that has been lacking for quite some time.
Sen. Obama met privately with American troops, military leaders and Afghan officials in the eastern part of the country, making no public statements in his first day here. The New York Times reports that Obama flew to Kuwait between Thursday and Friday, and arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday. The details of his itinerary are secret for security reasons.
The Obama campaign received a shot in the arm when it was reported by Der Spiegel - a German magazine - that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki agreed with Obama's plan to withdraw combat brigade troops from Iraq in 16 months after taking office. He was quoted as saying, "U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes." In the magazine interview, al-Maliki also said his remarks did not indicate that he was endorsing Obama over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.
The magazine quotes al-Maliki as saying, "Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: the tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited. Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."
Soon after this story broke, there was a quick correction by al-Maliki claiming that his remarks were "misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately." An Iraqi government spokesman said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and President George W. Bush. There doesn't seem to be a change in the 16-month timetable for withdrawal, though.
Read the New York Times report on Obama in Afghanistan here.
Read the al-Maliki interview in Der Speigel here.
Read the CNN article on the al-Maliki statement and retraction here.
plez sez: if this trip is a success (i.e. no slip-ups by Obama)... mccain can kiss the presidency good-bye! i have a feeling that Obama is going to be well received in Europe and will continue to account for himself well in the Middle East... the world community is looking for a CHANGE in the way the US does business.
concerning the al-maliki statement, i can see a few words being lost in the translation, but having his entire policy totally misunderstood by the reporter from Der Spiegel is highly unlikely (so he was also misunderstood about not endorsing Barack Obama over john mccain?)... well, plezWorld ain't buying it for a second!
the bush administration made a few phone calls after the al-Maliki interview was published and he quickly tried to retract his comments that he obviously made prior to meeting with george bush. this flies in the face of john mccain and everything he stands for, and it makes the case for his democratic rival in the presidential election.
in light of the fact that al-Maliki and bush agreed to a "time horizon" leads me to believe that this guy would like to see US forces out of his country sooner than later (as fully clarified in his statements to the magazine). and he sure as hell isn't signing up for the US hanging around for the next 100 years!
and i'm not even going to go into how john mccain leaked a portion of Obama's travel itinerary during a fundraiser on friday. for security reasons, the White House, State Department and Pentagon do not announce senior officials' visits to Iraq in advance.