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Follow Up from Amir Taheri (Update)

John on September 19, 2008 at 9:58 am

Jake Tapper contacted Sen. Hegel (R), who was there at the meeting, and Hegel backs up Obama:

Buttry said that Hagel agrees with Obama’s account of the meeting: Obama began the meeting with al-Maliki by asserting that the United States speaks with one foreign policy voice, and that voice belongs to the Bush administration.

A Bush administration official with knowledge of the meeting says that, during the meeting, Obama stressed to al-Maliki that he would not interfere with President Bush’s negotiations concerning the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and that he supports the Bush administration’s position on the need to negotiate, as soon as possible, the Status of Forces Agreement, which deals with, among other matters, U.S. troops having immunity from local prosecution.

That’s all great except, as Allah at Hot Air notes, Obama himself seemed to suggest that submitting the SOFA to Congress was part of the discussion (scroll down for video).

[End Update]

His repsonse to Obama’s response is on NRO:

On Wednesday, the senator issued another statement — also in response to my op-ed — denying that he had ever opposed “a redeployment and responsible drawdown” of U.S. forces in Iraq. But I never said he did. I also never said that he opposed motherhood and apple pie; In any case, no one would oppose “redeployment and responsible drawdown,” something that is happening all the time. Redeployment means moving some units from one location to another. Drawdown means reducing the size of the expeditionary force in accordance with the task at hand. Right now troops are being redeployed from Anbar province to Salahuddin. There is also drawdown: The number of U.S. troops has been drawn down to 136,000, the lowest since a peak of 170,000 in 2003.

What Obama hopes his more radical followers will not notice is that he is no longer speaking of “withdrawal.”

He also hopes to hide the fact that by telling the Iraqi leaders that a putative Obama administration might scrap agreements reached with the Bush team, he might have delayed the start of a process that should lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces within a mutually agreed timeframe. The later you start the negotiating process, the later you get an agreement. And the later you have an agreement, the later you can withdraw your troops based on the agreed necessary security arrangements to ensure their safe departure.

By trying to second-guess the present administration in its negotiations with Iraq, Obama ignored a golden rule of American politics. I first learned about that rule from Senator Edward Kennedy more than 30 years ago. During a visit to Tehran, Kennedy received a few Iranian reporters for a poolside chat. The big question at the time was negotiations between Washington and Tehran about massive arms contracts. When we asked Kennedy what he thought of those negotiations, his answer was simple: He would not comment on negotiations between his government and a foreign power, especially when abroad. That, he said, was one of the golden rules of American politics.

A few years later, I spent a day with Ronald Reagan during his visit to Iran. I asked what he thought of the strategic arms limitation talks between the U.S. and the USSR. He echoed Kennedy’s golden rule: He would not comment on his government’s negotiations with a foreign power, especially when abroad.

A couple of years ago, I ran into that golden rule again. At a meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton in Washington, I asked what she thought of the Bush administration’s negotiations with the Iraqis concerning security cooperation. She said she would not second-guess the president and would wait for the outcome of the negotiations. In a statesmanlike manner, Senator Clinton reminded me of the golden rule—one that is common to all mature democracies where the opposition is loyal and constitutional.

Today, Senator Obama is the leader of a loyal opposition in the United States, not the chief of an insurrection or a revolutionary uprising. What we are witnessing in the U.S. is an election, not an insurrection or a coronation, even less a regime change.

Obama should not have discussed the government-to-government negotiations with the Iraqis. That he did, surprised the Iraqis no end. Raising the issue with them, especially the way he did, meant that he was telling them that he did not trust his own government. The Iraqis could not be blamed for wondering why they should trust a government that is not trusted by the leader of its own loyal opposition. (There was also no point in raising the matter, because Obama did not know the content of the negotiations.)

The continued silence of the mainstream press on this is deafening. Again, I’m not suggesting a Logan Act violation, but I think it’s clear this goes well beyond being put aside as a “gaffe.” This is a break from a long bipartisan tradition and a grave error.

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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