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The Last Time a Candidate Was Accused of Interferring in Foreign Affairs… (Update: SOFA-Gate)

John on September 16, 2008 at 11:43 pm

I was surprised yesterday when an AFP story in the Herald Sun appeared to confirm the allegations made by Amir Taheri, i.e. that during his Summer trip to Iraq Barack Obama had asked Iraqi officials not to negotiate with Bush. Why would team Obama just admit something so damning? It didn’t make sense.

Today, the American Spectator adds some behind the scenes detail to the story. What does it reveal? Team Obama knows this is a serious problem:

The Obama campaign spent more than five hours on Monday attempting to figure out the best refutation of the explosive New York Post report that quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying that Barack Obama during his July visit to Baghdad demanded that Iraq not negotiate with the Bush Administration on the withdrawal of American troops. Instead, he asked that they delay such negotiations until after the presidential handover at the end of January.

The three problems, according to campaign sources: The report was true, there were at least three other people in the room with Obama and Zebari to confirm the conversation, and there was concern that there were enough aggressive reporters based in Baghdad with the sources to confirm the conversation that to deny the comments would create a bigger problem.

Instead, Obama’s national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi told reporters that Obama told the Iraqis that they should not rush through what she termed a “Strategic Framework Agreement” governing the future of U.S. forces until after President Bush left office. In other words, the Iraqis should not negotiate an American troop withdrawal.

The only question left is what, if anything, the MSM will do about this story. For comparison purposes, you might be interested in what happened when a similar claim of interference in US foreign policy in the Middle East was laid against another Presidential candidate.

The “October Surprise” theory said that George H. W. Bush had flown to Paris just prior to the election in 1979 and worked out a secret deal with the Iranians to release the hostages after the election. The purported purpose of this scheme was to allow Ronald Reagan to enter office having ended a major international crisis. Despite scant evidence (eventually the story was found to emanate from a Lyndon LaRouche periodical), the press looked into it:

  • PBS Frontline did a film investigating the claim in 1990
  • The US Sentate held an investigation in 1992 which found the allegations not credible
  • The US House of Representatives came to similar conclusions in 1993 after their own investigation
  • Retired CIA analyst investigated the story for the Village Voice and found the witnesses were lying
  • Newsweek investigated the claims and found them lacking
  • The New Republic investigated the claims and also found them lacking

So, just to refresh, we have an incredible claim of a Vice Presidential candidate (Bush Sr.) interfering with US foreign policy on behalf of a Presidential candidate (Reagan) prior to an election. At least four major news outlets investigated, not to mention the House and Senate.

Now jump back to the present. We have a credible claim of interference in a major foreign policy issue (the Iraq war). We know the candidate was at the places in question, that he attended meetings with the people in question, and that the reporter has access to the sources in question. But all that’s beside the point since the candidate’s spokeswoman came out the next day and admitted the key issue, i.e. Obama encouraged Iraq’s leaders “not to rush” the troop redeployment agreement but to wait until after the elections (when he’d be in office and able to make the deal and claim the credit).

Strangely, even with all the salient facts on the table the press doesn’t seem that eager to dig into this. So how is this different exactly?

Barack Obama (D)

Oh, right…

[HT: Hot Air for the Spectator piece]

Update: Amir Taheri writes a follow up to his initial piece, essentially confirming that everything he claimed was true. He ends with this:

While I am encouraged by the senator’s evolution, I must also appeal to him to issue a “cease and desist” plea to the battalions of his sympathizers – who have been threatening me with death and worse in the days since my article appeared.

Also, this is worth a read. Even Obama’s backers and defenders are confused by his denial statement.

Finally, because it’s bound to happen anyway, I dub this controversy SOFA-GATE.

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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