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Did Obama Negotiate With Iraq Over Troops?

From McClatchy:

Did Obama engage as U.S.-Iraqi troop talks faltered?

Roy Gutman | McClatchy Newspapers
Tue, Oct. 25, 2011

BAGHDAD — Throughout the summer and autumn, as talks on a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq foundered, President Barack Obama and his point man on Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden, remained largely aloof from the process, logs released by the U.S. Embassy here suggest.

The omission would be an unusual one, given the high priority U.S. officials had given to achieving an agreement for some sort of residual U.S. presence in Iraq after the Dec. 31 pullout deadline, and the White House labeled the suggestion inaccurate. A spokesman said the logs released by the embassy were incomplete.

Actually, keeping a US presence in Iraq was a "high priority" for the military, not for Obama. In fact, it could be that he only made a token effort to keep trainers in Iraq, to mollify the generals and to try to escape blame for any future events.

The listing provided by the embassy — drawn, the embassy said, from the White House website — indicates that Obama had no direct contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki between Feb. 13, when he telephoned the prime minister, until Friday, when he called Maliki to tell him U.S. troops would be withdrawn by Dec. 31.

The embassy listing showed that Biden telephoned Maliki on Dec. 21, the day Maliki formed a new government, and visited here Jan. 18, but had no direct contact after that date, according to the official listing.

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, noted, however, that Maliki’s office released a statement Sept. 22 saying that Maliki and Biden had had a phone conversation that day in which the disposition of U.S. troops after Dec. 31 was discussed. He said the embassy list obviously had been prepared by someone not familiar with the full range of contacts.

Vietor declined to provide any details about the president’s contacts.

"The VP talked to senior Iraqi leaders multiple times during that period of time," Vietor wrote in an email. "The President also engaged with Iraqi leaders. Your story is totally wrong."

Well, if Mr. Obama put Joe Biden on the job, it’s no wonder the talks went no where. (Mr. Biden probably spent all of his time discussing dividing Iraq into three parts.)

U.S. Embassy officials, asked in July whether Biden was coming to help secure the deal, which military officers said needed to be concluded by July 31 for planning purposes, said the vice president was too busy trying to end the donnybrook in Congress over raising the national debt ceiling to visit Iraq.

Mr. Biden was also making sure that none of the stimulus money was wasted. He was also in charge of protecting the Middle Class. So it would be very understandable if this minor matter fell through the cracks.

Iraqi government spokesman Tahseen al Shaikhli said he could not explain the lack of contact between Maliki and top-level Americans.

“You’ll have to ask (Obama) why he didn’t intervene before this, or call before this,” he said.

Shaikhli said his government still hopes that an invitation that Obama extended for a meeting with Maliki in December might lead to an agreement between the two countries that would allow uniformed U.S. trainers to deploy to Iraq.

“Maybe when they sit together, they will solve most of the problems,” he said, adding, "Or maybe they will complicate it more."

Maliki announced on May 11 that he would consult politicians at every level before deciding whether to ask the United States to keep troops here, and he said he hoped to reach a decision by July 31, the date set by the U.S. military. Iraqi officials soon were saying that the country was hoping that at least 10,000 to 15,000 troops would stay behind.

Iraqi political leaders, with the exception of followers of the militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr and veteran politician Ahmed Chalabi, indicated that they would favor the continued presence of U.S. forces, but they were less certain about the U.S. demand to provide immunity from prosecution for troops serving here.

Notice that the Iraqis actually wanted some of our troops to stay on past the deadline.

A major complication was the insistence by the Obama administration that the accord go before the Iraqi parliament, something that in the end Iraqi politicians decided was impossible. But whether that restriction was necessary is an open question. Many status-of-forces agreements are signed at the executive level only, particularly in countries without elected legislatures.

But the White House turned the issue over to the State Department’s legal affairs office, reporters in Baghdad were told on Saturday. The lawyers gave a variety of options, but Obama chose the most stringent, approval by Iraq’s legislature of a new agreement, citing as precedent that the Iraqi parliament had approved the 2008 agreement, reporters were told

It sure sounds like Obama was insisting on something that he knew would be impossible for the Iraqi leaders to do.

By mid-September, Iraqi government spokesmen had lowered their goal for a continued presence of U.S. military trainers to about 3,000. But they were also determined not to give in on the American demand for immunity for U.S. troops.

When the Iraqis announced that they’d reached a decision Oct. 4 to request trainers, the figure was "more than 5,000," according to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who told reporters Oct. 10 that Iraqi was seeking a "yes or no" response from the Americans. He said there would be no grant of immunity to Americans who stayed behind, however, something the Pentagon had previously said would be required if any troops were to remain.

Whether an earlier Obama intervention would have changed the course of the talks is unknowable.

Shaikhli, the Iraqi spokesman, said his government still is hoping for an agreement that would provide American forces with “legal protection” rather than “immunity,” meaning that the U.S. would retain jurisdiction if a soldier committed a crime against another soldier, but that Iraqi law would hold sway if the soldier were accused of injuring an Iraqi civilian.

Shaikhli said, however, that he didn’t think such an agreement should be put before the Iraqi parliament.

It sure sounds like Obama never wanted this extension to work out. And that he was just going through the motions — and not even doing that — to placate the Pentagon and to escape any blame when the Shiites hit the fan.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Did Obama Negotiate With Iraq Over Troops?”

  1. Ajax101 says:

    I believe Obama has been covertly working with Iran since before he took office. The White House reluctance to exploit widespread protests of the fraudulent Iranian 2010 elections or the current strife in Syria suggests an under-the-table pact.

    Obama may have agreed to strip Iraq of all but 150 embassy guards in exchange for Iran’s promise not to destabalize and annex Iraq until after the 2012 U.S. elections.

    • JohnMG says:

      One thing you can be certain of…….and Sheriff Joe is an authority here4…….is that rapes and murders will increase as a result.

      Count on it.

  2. Astravogel says:

    If I were a Kurd, I’d keep my bags packed
    now that Israel and Turkey are on the outs,
    and the US is getting out of Iraq. Same
    thing that happened to the Montagnards in
    Viet Nam will most likely occur, but there
    aren’t any handy boat launching spots in

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