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Obama Takes On Afghanistan, Iraq And Europe

July 20, 2008

Obama meets with Afghan president

The Early Word: Maliki Backs Off Support of Obama Plan

As Senator Barack Obama continues his trip to the Middle East and Europe, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has moved to clarify statements that he supports Mr. Obama’s plan to withdraw most American troops from Iraq over 16 months.

A spokesman for Mr. al-Maliki said that the comments the prime minister made to the German magazine Der Spiegel were “misunderstood and mistranslated’’ and were not “conveyed accurately.” The spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, did not elaborate on that explanation but did say that statements made by Mr. al-Maliki or members of the Iraqi government should not be taken as a sign of support for any presidential candidate.

Obama tells Karzai he’ll fight terror ‘with vigor’

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, right, walks along with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Sunday, July 20, 2008.  (AP / Presidential Palace) … telling him the U.S. will fight terrorism “with vigor” if elected, according to an Afghan official.

U.S. embassy spokesperson Mark Stroh told reporters talks included the economy, corruption, and Afghanistan’s security situation. An official with Karzai’s office said Obama offered a positive message.

“Sen. Obama conveyed … that he is committed to supporting Afghanistan and to continue the war against terrorism with vigor,” said Humayun Hamidzada, Karzai’s spokesman.

“He didn’t bring any reporters with him on the plane and that’s very rare,” CNN’s Reza Sayah told CTV Newsnet on Sunday morning.

Pitfalls for Obama on world tour

Democratic Party’s presidential nominee addresses what many see as his Achilles heel: his foreign policy credentials.  On the European leg of his trip, Obama is likely to be greeted by large, curious and excited crowds. Obamamania will go global.  Yet, while such images may help bolster the sense that he is best-placed to improve America’s image in the world, they could also create the impression of an arrogant candidate, who has crossed the line between appearing ready to lead and acting as though he is already in charge.

So, the German leader, Angela Merkel, may have done him a favour by apparently blocking his alleged plans for a speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

He has, at the same time, retained the option of leaving behind ill-defined “supporting” forces.

He has also talked about “refining” his views, after meeting commanders on the ground; a choice of verb, which provoked Republican accusations of inconsistency.

So, when he sees those military leaders, he will have to show that he understands their concerns and goals and – perhaps – convince them that his vision would not bind them to unrealistic timetables, which could undermine Iraq’s recent, hard-won security gains.

Expect the body language from that meeting to be analysed even more than the words.

Obama arrives in Iraq to grasp real situation in this country

Wary welcome awaits Obama in Middle East

WASHINGTON (AFP) — While Barack Obama can expect to be feted as a hero as “Obamamania” strikes Europe, he faces a more uncertain welcome on the Middle East leg of his international campaign swing this week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel has set off political shockwaves here in the United States. Here is their conversation… [here]


Maliki: So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn’t the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias. The American lead negotiators realize this now, and that’s why I expect to see an agreement taking shape even before the end of President Bush’s term in office. With these negotiations, we will start the whole thing over again, on a clearer, better basis, because the first proposals were unacceptable to us.

We are watching the ultimate test for Obama.  With the world anxiously awaiting for a cooler head for the US ship of state, Obama is under the microscope.  The results of this trip will become fodder for McCain’s campaign. While we witness Obama’s learning curve, we must stay aware that this trip is a necessary vetting process.  Depending on how connected European leaders are to Bush policies, Obama’s reception and media coverage will be a major tool for the remainder of the election.

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