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Obama: Delivers Iraq war speech. Focus on al Queda in Pakistan. Susan Rice explains why Obama is locking in Iraq policy in advance of Iraq trip

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WASHINGTON--In the run up to an overseas trip--and to clarify his Iraq pullout plan in the wake of a statement that he will "refine" his plan if president, presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivers what his campaign is calling a major Iraq speech here this morning. This evening Obama appears on CNN's Larry King Live and the Newshour on PBS, covering the waterfront on long form interviews. On Sunday, Obama ran an op-ed in the New York Times where he talked about his 16 month time frame for pulling out combat troops.

Obama is poised to leave on a trip to take him to Jordan, Israel, possibly the West Bank, France, Germany and England. He is also to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. On a conference call on Monday, Obama foreign affairs advisor Susan Rice was asked why Obama was clarifying his Iraq policy in advance of a "fact finding" trip to talk to commanders on the ground.

Said Rice, " But I think obviously Iraq is an important and critical issue in this election.

"Senator Obama has spoken and written about it multiple times during the campaign, as he will continue to. And this was an important opportunity, in light of recent events -- most notably what we've been hearing from the Iraqi government about its desire for a timetable, what we're hearing from our own general on the ground, General Dubik, about the enhanced readiness of the Iraqi security forces -- to reiterate20his approach and to underscore that he remains firmly committed to ending the war, to responsibly redeploying our forces, and to addressing the critical unattended national security challenges that we face.

Now, that has been his approach for the last several years. It remains his broad approach. As commander in chief, Senator Obama will set the strategic direction, and that strategic direction is ending the war, for the reasons I've repeated several times now.

He has also said consistently over the last several years that when it comes to tactics, he will listen to what his commanders on the ground have to say but ultimately it's his decision as commander in chief as to how to affect that strategic necessity of withdrawal, and he remains committed to doing it.

Nevertheless, if he were to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, certainly he would welcome the opportunity to have substantive discussions with Iraqi leaders and American military and civilian leadership in those countries and to have the opportunity to assess circumstances.

But that assessment certainly might inform how the policy that Obama sets will perhaps be implemented in its details. But its broad forms as outlined yet again today in The New York Times of a responsible redeployment for strategic purposes that can be affected, we believe, safely in 16 months, is the policy that he will pursue.

And it's the policy we must pursue to really build and reset our military to deal effectively with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and, indeed, to catalyze the political progress that is Iraq's best hope for sustained political security, and indeed to deal with the reality that the Iraq leadership themselves had said that is what they'll insist upon, the reality that just ..... continues to deny," Rice said.

from the Obama campaign....

** excerpts of today’s speech on Iraq below**

The Obama Campaign Today – Tuesday, July 15

On tap for today:

Barack Obama will deliver a major policy address on Iraq and national security at the International Trade Center in Washington DC tomorrow morning. Senator Obama will outline his strategy for addressing the most pressing threats facing America, which requires bringing the war to a responsible end, finishing the fight in Afghanistan, and pursuing our broader strategic objectives in the world.

The event will take place The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Program begins at 10:45 AM EDT.

Senator Obama will also appear in taped segments on the Newshour and Larry King Live this evening, at 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM EDT respectively.

New Challenges for a New World

By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe. We’ve been distracted from our most pressing threats, and we’ve pushed the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military--while neglected the other elements of American power. And we’ve alienated ourselves from the world instead of strengthening our alliances.

As President, Barack Obama will lead this country in a new direction by focusing on five goals essential to making America safer:

1. Ending the war in Iraq responsibly;

2. Finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban;

3. Securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue nations;

4. Achieving true energy security;

5. Rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


“Our men and women in uniform have accomplished every mission we have given them. What’s missing in our debate about Iraq – what has been missing since before the war began – is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq and its dominance of our foreign policy. This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.

“I am running for President of the United States to lead this country in a new direction -to seize this moment’s promise. Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America – once again – to lead.

"As President, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy – one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin. I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”


“In fact – as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain – the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That’s why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It is unacceptable that almost seven years after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on our soil, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are recording messages to their followers and plotting more terror. The Taliban controls parts of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia. If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.

“Senator McCain said – just months ago – that ‘Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.’ I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That’s what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that’s why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”


“Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It’s time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That’s why I’m cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.”

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 15, 2008 5:44 AM.

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