Feature

Obama’s surprise visit to Iraq

From Turkey, President Obama went on to make an unannounced visit to Iraq, where he met with top U.S. commanders, Iraqi officials, and a cheering crowd of soldiers.

President Obama dropped in unannounced on Iraq this week, meeting with top U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials and telling a cheering crowd of soldiers that it’s time for Iraqis “to take responsibility for their country and their sovereignty.” Speaking at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military installation, he reaffirmed his determination to withdraw most of the 139,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2010. During his five-hour visit, Obama conferred with Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, as well as with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He pressed al-Maliki to speed up political reconciliation efforts with Sunnis and forge an oil revenue sharing agreement among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. “It is time to transition to the Iraqis,” Obama said. “We can’t do it for them.”

Obama arrived in Baghdad from Turkey, where he addressed the parliament in Ankara and met with university students in Istanbul. He told legislators that “the U.S. is not—and will never be—at war with Islam.” In Istanbul, he acknowledged that America “has made mistakes,” but said we’ve learned from them. His visit fulfilled a campaign pledge to visit a majority-Muslim country during his first 100 days in office.

It was “incredibly moving” to see Obama being mobbed and hugged by delirious American troops in Iraq, said Joan Walsh in Salon.com. Blacks, women, gruff-looking white guys with crew cuts—“everyone in the crowd was thrilled,” as Obama took the time to speak to and touch dozens of individual soldiers. “I wonder if it will give Republicans pause when they’re inclined to slur Obama as ‘anti-American,’ and worse?”

Obama is right—the solution to Iraq’s continuing problems is “political, not military,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Iraqi leaders have failed to negotiate a real power-sharing agreement. Just last week, al-Maliki’s government arrested a leader of the Sunni “Sons of Iraq” movement, which once had allied with the U.S. in subduing al Qaida in Iraq. Now that this alliance is crumbling, Sunnis are again shooting at U.S. and Iraqi troops and talking about realigning with al Qaida. Obama’s performance in Turkey was, well, “a turkey,” said Ralph Peters in the New York Post. Instead of extracting agreements on economic and security issues, he spent his time apologizing to Muslims for America’s supposed sins. Sure, “Obama means well.” But his “distressing naïveté” only sets us up for future humiliation by the Muslim world.

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