Obama promises Iraq’s foreign minister that he will visit before November

Once upon a time Obama acted like he wasn’t going to go to Iraq again (outside of the one visit he made in January 2006). Now he’s trying to follow in McCain’s footsteps – literally:

(CNN) – A day after his Republican counterpart sat down with visiting Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, Barack Obama spoke with him by phone from Chicago Monday morning and told him that he looked forward to seeing him in Baghdad before November.

WATCH Sen. Obama discuss Iraq

“I emphasized to him how encouraged I was by the reductions in violence in Iraq, but also insisted that it is important for us to begin the process of withdrawing US troops, making clear that we have no interest in permanent bases in Iraq” Obama told reporters upon landing in Michigan for a two-day swing through the state.

The Illinois senator misspoke when he argued that Zebari and “President Maliki” are concerned about Iraq’s sovereignty and are not seeking a long-term occupation by the United States. Jalal al-Talabani is the president of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is the prime minister.

“I gave [Zebari] an assurance that should we be elected, an Obama administration will make sure that we continue with the progress that’s been made in Iraq, that we won’t act precipitously” said Obama.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one very interested to see how he walks the fine line of talking about the progress being made in Iraq without sounding too upbeat and optimistic, and therefore alienating the strong anti-war wing of his base.

McCain’s said today re: Obama and Iraq:

“The whole debate in this campaign should be about whether we’re going to allow that surge to continue to succeed or we’re again going to do what Sen. Obama wanted to do and that is to set date for withdrawal long ago without giving the surge a chance to succeed” said McCain, again criticizing Obama for not meeting directly with Gen. David Petraeus.

“I don’t know how you can draw conclusions such as Senator Obama has without even sitting down and talking with our commander on the ground” he added.

Good. Very good. McCain is setting the terms and laying the groundwork for debate about the Iraq war this fall, in an attempt to make this election primarily about national security – and, of course, the experience needed to be CIC in a time of war, a debate I think he can win (scroll). Now if Obama would just agree to some town hall debates, or at the very least agree to schedule the one he has agreed to on a day other than July 4th when – naturally – not many people will be around to watch.

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