Despite his insistent demands for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama secretly urged Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement that would lead to a draw down in troop numbers.
A blockbuster expose in Monday's New York Post by Amir Tahiri revealed that Obama made his demand for the delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told The Post.
"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview with The Post.
Zabari recalled that Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of U.S. 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 said.
Obama says he wants U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2010, a development that would be impossible if the status of forces agreement were delayed as he asked the Iraqis.
In addition to his backdoor approach to the Iraqis, The Post said Obama also sought to persuade U.S. commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a "realistic withdrawal date," a request they refused.
The Post noted that, "to be credible, Obma's foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years."
"Yet Iraq is doing much better than its friends hoped and its enemies feared," The Post stated, adding that "the United Nations mandate will be extended in December, and we may yet get an agreement on the status of forces before President Bush leaves the White House in January."
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