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Pawns And Politics?

Someone in the Obama campaign will have to work long and hard to explain a quote from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, appearing in a New York Post OpEd column. According to the Iraqi official - notably on record and not as an anonymous source - Senator Obama sought to influence the Iraq government to delay talks on implementing a draw down of US troop levels in Iraq until after the election, presumably when an Obama administration would be in office and thus capable of assuming credit for reducing US troop levels in Iraq.

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

If Zebari's account is accurate, it is at minimum a violation of the Logan Act as noted by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Color me skeptical in one aspect of Taheri’s argument. He claims that this would have hypocritically delayed the withdrawal of American troops until 2011, and you have to read the column to see how he calculates that through Iraqi elections and parliamentary procedure. That assumes, however, that an Obama administration would bother to negotiate a drawdown and withdrawal with Baghdad. Obama probably will just pull American troops out of Iraq without worrying about such niceties as a status-of-forces agreement. Hypocrisy isn’t the issue here; it’s the interference of Obama in military and diplomatic affairs. Just on diplomacy, interfering with the United States in its diplomatic efforts is a Logan Act violation. Interfering with war policy treads on even more serious ground, especially since the primary motivation appears to be winning an election without regard to whether it damages our ability to fight the enemy or drives wedges between us and our ally, the elected, representative government in Baghdad.

Ed is right to give pause to the emotional aspects that the Taheri column has aroused - namely of hypocrisy on the part of the Obama campaign. But a violation of the Logan Act based on the Iraqi Foreign Minister's words - should they be accurate - is fully separate from the emotionally charged political implications.

For me, what it demonstrates is a political-first utility that appears to be surfacing from the Obama camp. Remember the Marines landing on Somali shores to the waiting lights and cameras of the media in the early 1990's. Their utility in that respect was for political gain as well. And if this is the case with Obama meddling in US-Iraq relations regarding US force levels during a political campaign, the parallels are undeniable.

Such would not bode well for the US Military going forward.

See also: Instapundit and Wizbang.


Amir Taheri has what you might call a credibility problem. In 2006, writing for the National Post in Canada, he cited unnamed sources reporting that religious minorities in Iran were being required to wear special badges. No such law had been proposed, and the National Post had to retract the story.
In 2005, in a New York Post column, he also cited Iranian ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif as one of the US embassy hostage takers. It turned out that Zarif had been a graduate student at San Francisco State University at the time.

I would be careful on this story. Amir Taheri has had problems with accuracy in the past. He has written two stories that had to be retracted because the basic facts were wrong.
1)In 2006, he wrote an article in the National Post (Canada) claiming that the Iranian government had introduced a law requiring religious minorities to wear special badges. No such law was actually proposed.
2) Taheri also inaccurately claimed that Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the UN, participated in the embassy hostage incident in 1979. He was confirmed to have been studying at San Francisco State University at the time the embassy was invaded.