U.S. Military, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Senator Barack Obama at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with, from left: William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan; Senator Chuck Hagel; Sgt. Maj. Vincent Camacho; Senator Jack Reed; and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser.

This is going to infuriate the McCainiacs. But it’s just another sign that
redeployment is an idea whose time has come. Via

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops
should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted
U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

“U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That,
we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility
of slight changes.”

It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by
Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour
of Europe and the Middle East. …

Maliki’s interview with Spiegel,
English version, is interesting:

‘The Tenure of Coalition Troops in Iraq Should Be Limited’

The situation in Iraq seems to be improving. SPIEGEL spoke with Iraqi Prime
Minister al-Maliki about his approval of Barack Obama’s withdrawal plans and
what he hopes from US President Bush in his last months in office. …

Get ready for the Republicans to squeal like rats on a sunk ship. Ilan Goldenberg of Democracy Arsenal has two words for them: “It’s Over.”

Also get prepared for political pressure from the Bush administration to have
Maliki walk his statement back. But according
to ABC News
, the White House was so flustered by the Maliki – Obama timetable
story that they sent it out to reporters instead.

The Obama team just released a memo on just how strongly the Democratic nominee
has taken over on foreign policy. The title could be called “Follow the Leader,” and it’s definitely not John McCain who’s leading.

To: Interested Parties

From: The Obama Campaign

RE: Obama Leading on Foreign Policy, McCain Following

There are two problems with John McCain’s political attacks on Barack Obama’s
foreign policy. First, on the biggest foreign policy questions of the last
eight years, Barack Obama has made the right judgment and John McCain has
sided with George Bush in making the wrong one. Second, the failure of the
McCain-Bush foreign policy has forced John McCain to change his position,
and to embrace the very same Obama approaches that he once attacked.

Just this week, Senator McCain has been forced by events to switch to Barack
Obama’s position on two fundamental issues: more troops in Afghanistan, and
more diplomacy with Iran. On both issues, Obama took stands that weren’t politically
popular at the time – opposing the war in Iraq as a diversion from the
critical mission in Afghanistan, and standing up for direct diplomacy with
Iran – while John McCain lined up with George Bush. Time has proven
Obama’s judgment right and McCain wrong.

The next shift appears to be Iraq. For months, Senator McCain has called
any plan to redeploy our troops from Iraq “surrender” – even
though we’d be leaving Iraq to a sovereign Iraqi government. Now, the Bush
Administration is embracing the negotiation of troop withdrawals with the
Iraqi government – a position that Senator Obama called for last September,
and reiterated on Monday in the New York Times. And now, Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki supports Barack Obama’s timeline, telling Der Speigel that,
“Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.”

Afghanistan –

· McCain at the beginning of the week: more of the same

· McCain at the end of the week: more troops

Barack Obama said in 2002 that we had to finish the fight against Osama bin
Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan instead of invading Iraq. John McCain was
George Bush’s biggest supporter for a war in Iraq that took our eye off of
Afghanistan, arguing that we would be “greeted as liberators”; that
democracy would spread across the region; and that we could “muddle through”
in Afghanistan. On the most important foreign policy judgment of our generation,
Obama got it right and McCain got it wrong.

Since then, our overwhelming focus on Iraq has caused us to shortchange Afghanistan.
The result is clear. Osama bin Laden is still at large. Al Qaeda has reconstituted
a sanctuary along the Pakistani border. The Taliban is on the offensive. June
was the highest casualty month of the war. And Obama’s judgment was reaffirmed
earlier this month, when Admiral Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs
of Staff, said, “I don’t have troops I can reach for, brigades I can
reach, to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq.”

Barack Obama has consistently called for more troops and resources in Afghanistan.
In August of 2007, he called for at least two additional U.S. combat brigades
and $1 billion in non-military assistance. Senator McCain continued to march
in lockstep with the failed Bush policy, and even argued earlier this year
that “Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.”
This past week, Senator McCain changed his position for political reasons,
embracing Obama’s call for more troops the day after Obama restated it in
a New York Times op-ed, and almost one year after Obama’s initial plan. McCain’s
proposal was complicated by the fact that the McCain campaign couldn’t even
get its answer straight on whether those troops would come from the U.S. or
our NATO allies – leading the Times to wonder “how well formed
his ideas are.”


Gergen: “In The Last Two Days We’ve Seen Twice Now The Bush Administration
Reverse Itself And Take Positions That Are Much Closer To Obama’s,” Added
“The Greater Danger To Our Troops Right Now Is In Afghanistan. That’s
What Obama’s Been Arguing All Along.” David Gergen: “For the last
few months, John McCain has had the upper hand in the arguments about foreign
policy, as one of the chief architects of a surge that Obama voted against
and then it seemed to work. And yet in the last two days we’ve seen twice
now the Bush administration reverse itself and take positions that are much
closer to Obama’s. Last night we talked about the fact that suddenly the Bush
administration had reversed course and was going to begin talking directly
to Iran this weekend, and now tonight we’re talking about them reversing course
and saying we must send more troops into Afghanistan, and Afghanistan is becoming
in many ways at least as dangerous as Iraq. You know, last — in June, there
were virtually the same number of American troops who died in Afghanistan
as in Iraq, and yet in Iraq we have five times as many troops. So the danger,
the greater danger to our troops right now is in Afghanistan. That’s what
Obama’s been arguing all along.” [Anderson Cooper, CNN, 7/16/08]

LA Times Columnist: After Years Of Saying Afghanistan Was Not A Threat, McCain
Is Now Calling For More Troops There, “Maybe Because Barack Obama Keeps
Hammering Away At The Issue.” LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks wrote, “Immediately
after 9/11, McCain shared the widespread view that the U.S. should go to war
in Afghanistan to take out those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But by
late November 2001, he wanted to “move on to the next country.”
Uh-huh: “Next up, Baghdad!” Of course, we stayed in Afghanistan
too, but McCain had gotten tired of it. By April 2003, he said that “nobody
in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America,” so we could focus
instead on the shiny new war in Iraq. “We don’t read about [Afghanistan]
anymore, because it’s succeeded,” he explained in October 2005. But Iraq
started getting boring too, so now McCain has turned his restless attention
back to Afghanistan — maybe because Barack Obama keeps hammering away at
the issue. (Obama, who’s been fairly consistent on Afghanistan for six years
now, is either the rare politician who doesn’t suffer from ADD, or he’s smart
enough to take his meds.)” [Rosa Brooks Column, LA Times, 7/17/08]


· McCain at the beginning of the week: against high-level talks with

· McCain at the end of the week: praised Bush Administration’s high-level
talks with Iran

Barack Obama has consistently said that our policy of not pursuing direct
diplomacy with Iran has failed, and he has made it clear that he favors direct
talks with the Iranian regime in order to advance our interests. Senator McCain
and President Bush have ridiculed Obama’s support for direct diplomacy with
the Iranian regime. In his trip to Israel, President Bush took implicit aim
at Senator Obama, and suggested his proposals for tough diplomacy constituted
“appeasement,” while McCain said Obama’s approach was “naive”
and “shows a lack of experience.

Here is the record of the McCain-Bush approach. Iran has advanced its illicit
nuclear program. Iran is now enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled
150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Iran’s support for terrorism has increased.
Iran’s threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they
cannot be denied. McCain has fully supported this failed policy, while Obama
has called for a new direction.

This week the Bush administration finally appeared to recognize that it
is reckless refusal to participate in talks with our European allies and the
Iranian regime had failed. The Bush Administration shifted its policy, and
is sending a top-ranking State Department official to join in nuclear talks
across the table from Iran in Geneva Senator McCain, a long-time critic of
diplomatic engagement with Iran, now changed his position to Obama’s and said
that he had “no problem…whatsoever” with this high-level diplomatic
engagement with Iran. For the second time in one week, events on the ground
forced John McCain to change his position to embrace an Obama position.


Stephanopoulous: “Undersecretary Of State William Burns Will Be Meeting
With The Iranians This Weekend As Part Of Their Nuclear Talks,” Obama
Has “Been Calling For Those Kind Of Talks For A Long Time.” George
Stephanopoulous said, “Senator McCain has moved more towards Barack Obama’s
position on Afghanistan, calling for two or three more brigades in Afghanistan
which Obama’s called for a long time and watch for this, Chris. We just learned
today that the Undersecretary of State William Burns will be meeting with
the Iranians this weekend as part of their nuclear talks. Watch for the Obama
campaign to say this vindicates Barack Obama’s position. He’s been calling
for those kind of talks for a long time.” [ABC Good Morning America,

Gibson: Bush Administration Insisted It Would Not Talk With Iran, But Its
New Willingness to Talk “Is Essentially What Barack Obama Has Been Proposing.”
Charlie Gibson: “The Bush administration, for years, has insisted it
would not talk with Iran until Iran suspended its nuclear enrichment program.
That policy was reversed today. The State Department said it will send Undersecretary
of State William Burns to meet face-to-face with Iran’s nuclear negotiator
this weekend. So, Martha Raddatz is here to explain what seems like a major
turnaround…There are political implications to this because this is
essentially what Barack Obama has been proposing, isn’t it?” Martha Raddatz
said, “It sure sounds like it, Charlie. There’s a good quote today, from
John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador. He said this is like getting an Obama
administration six months early. The White House says it’s very different.
But it sure sounds like it’s heading in that direction.” [ABC World News,

Bolton Sarcastically Said Bush Shift Toward Talking To Iran “Is The
State Department Effort To Insure A Smooth Transition To The Obama Administration.”
John Bolton said of the Bush Administration’s agreeing to talks with Ira,
“Even if this is a one time only event in the Bush administration, it
legitimizes the Obama administration to do the same thing,” he said.
“It undercuts McCain, and Republicans on the Hill. This is the State
Department effort to insure a smooth transition to the Obama administration.”
[New York Sun, 7/17/08]

Washington Post: While Bush Administration Opposed US Officials Accompanying
Solana To Iran Talks, “Obama Campaign Officials Had Said That One Of
The First Steps He Would Take As President Would Be To End The Ban On U.S.
Officials Accompanying Solana.” “Administration officials have long
insisted that U.S. representatives would not join even preliminary discussions
with Tehran until it stops enriching uranium — a distinction that presumptive
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has called counterproductive.
In June, when Solana traveled to Tehran to present a sweetened offer to Iran
to negotiate, the United States pointedly did not join other members of the
international coalition in sending a senior official to the meeting. State
Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the time that no U.S. representative
would attend unless ‘Iran suddenly has a change of tune and says that they
will meet the demands of the international community, which are expressed
in U.N. Security Council resolutions.’ European officials hailed the news
that Burns would come to Geneva as a breakthrough, one that sends a clear
message to Iran that the international community is interested in negotiating
a solution to the nuclear impasse. ‘It is a very interesting and important
sign by the United States,’ one senior European official said last night.
Obama campaign officials had said that one of the first steps he would take
as president would be to end the ban on U.S. officials accompanying Solana.”
[Washington Post, 7/15/08]

The Guardian: McCain has “no problem…whatsoever” with high-level
talks with Iran. “John McCain, said he had ‘no problem . . . whatsoever’
with Burns going to the Geneva meeting, but repeated said he would not meet
Ahmadinejad. ” [The Guardian (London), 7/18/08]


Barack Obama has consistently called for a responsible redeployment of our
troops from Iraq so that we can press the Iraqis to take responsibility for
their country, restore our military, and finish the fight in Afghanistan.
It is in America’s interests to end the Iraq War responsibly, and it
is in the interest of the Iraqi people to have a government that reconciles
its differences and takes responsibility for the future of Iraq.

John McCain has consistently labeled any plan to remove U.S. troops from
Iraq as “surrender.” However, just this week, the White House
agreed on a “general time horizon” for the removal of U.S. troops
from Iraq. And speaking to Der Spiegel, Prime Minister Maliki said, “Barack
Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.” He went on to say, “Artificially
prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems.”

Senator McCain has said that we must leave Iraq when the sovereign government
of Iraq wants us to. Now that the White House has shifted closer to Senator
Obama’s position on negotiating the redeployment of our troops from
Iraq, and the Prime Minister of the sovereign government of Iraq has endorsed
Senator Obama’s 16 month timeline, will Senator McCain shift his position
on redeploying troops from Iraq? Why does Senator McCain refuse to press the
Iraqis to stand up? Why does Senator McCain want to stay in Iraq longer than
we need to and longer than the Iraqis want us to? Does Senator McCain think
it would be “surrender” to leave Iraq to the Iraqi government?

Council on Foreign Relations, McCain: “I don’t see how we could stay
when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government
over to the Iraqi people” QUESTION: Let me give you a hypothetical,
senator. What would or should we do if, in the post-June 30th period, a so-called
sovereign Iraqi government asks us to leave, even if we are unhappy about
the security situation there? I understand it’s a hypothetical, but it’s at
least possible. McCAIN: Well, if that scenario evolves, then I think it’s
obvious that we would have to leave because— if it was an elected government
of Iraq— and we’ve been asked to leave other places in the world. If
it were an extremist government, then I think we would have other challenges,
but I don’t see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been
based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people. http://www.cfr.org/publication/6973/
{April 22, 2004}