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Iraq: No hasty change in US policy with Obama win

Iraq: No hasty change in US policy with Obama win

Barack Obama may say change is on the way, but many Iraqis aren't counting on an immediate shift in U.S. policy toward their country when the Democrat takes office as U.S. president.
At the same time, Iraqi officials recognize the new president-elect's perspective on the war in Iraq differs greatly from current U.S. President George W. Bush.
"We don't expect any change to happen overnight or any hasty change in U.S. policy and commitment toward Iraq," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Al-Arabiyah TV moments after Obama claimed victory over Republican John McCain.
But he acknowledged that Obama "will not have the same enthusiasm and momentum for this situation" in Iraq as Bush.
Obama opposed the Iraq invasion of 2003 and has called for a complete withdrawal of combat troops within 16 months. But Zebari suggested the situation on the ground may dictate his moves as president.
The foreign minister said Obama told Iraqi leaders earlier this year during meetings in Baghdad and Washington that "he would not take any hasty decisions ... and any decision that concerns Iraq would be taken after thorough discussions with the Iraqi government and field military leaders."
Salim Abdullah, spokesman for the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, agreed.
"We are not concerned that he will take a unilateral decision to move troops quickly from Iraq as he needs to discuss this issue with the Iraqi government first," Abdullah told The Associated Press.
"Obama has to deal with Iraq's issues in a positive way and has to have a sense of responsibility to correct the situation in Iraq as well the situation in America," he said.
Iyad Jamal-Aldin, a lawmaker from the Iraqiya List, said "realities on Earth will have their affect" on Obama's decisions toward Iraq once he is sworn in Jan. 20.
"We do not expect a big change in Obama's policy from Bush's, and he has stated before that he will not take irresponsible decisions concerning the American troops in Iraq," Jamal-Aldin told Al-Arabiya from London. "I do not expect a surprise change in American policy toward Iraq."
Obama's election win comes as U.S. and Iraqi officials scramble to reach a deal on a new security agreement that would end the U.S. military presence in the country by 2012 and give Iraqis a greater role in managing combat operations.
Violence has dropped sharply in the country since Iraqi security forces and the U.S. military gained the upper hand against extremists this spring.
But a string of bombings in Baghdad this week have killed more than 30 people, underscoring that insurgents still pose a threat. And U.S. commanders warn the security gains are reversible.
It remains unclear what impact the Democrat's victory will have on negotiations over the security pact, but Jamal-Aldin doesn't expect it "will speed up the signing of the pact."
"Iran will make use of the new situation in America and Obama's election to negotiate with Americans about the situation in the Mideast and the regions that Iran has influence in, like Iraq and Lebanon," he said.
Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said Obama's victory doesn't signal a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but he thinks it will usher in a fresh approach from Washington toward the Middle East.
"With his (Obama's) win, a new administration will bring new policy to the world and the region," Othman said. "I think that it's a natural change to take place after a long period with the Republicans in office."
Othman also praised the Democrat's idea of holding talks with Iraq's neighbor, Iran.
"That is the right think to do to keep Iraq security safe," Othman said.
Meanwhile, Iraq's government welcomed Obama's victory, and spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement that Baghdad hopes to cooperate with the president-elect to achieve "security and stability in Iraq, to preserve its sovereignty and protect its people's interests."
Sadiq al-Rikabi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, praised Obama's win as "an admirable example of democracy."
"We look forward to working with him (Obama) to consolidate relations between our two nations," al-Rikabi told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Iraqis opposed to the U.S. military presence hailed Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election.
The country has nearly as big a stake in Tuesday's presidential contest as Americans since Obama will face tough decisions on how to draw down U.S. forces without sacrificing security gains and vital American interests in the Middle East.
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Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin and Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-26 05:31 GMT+08:00