POLITICS
06/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Will Obama's Reassurances To Iraqi Officials Upset His Base?

While most worldwide polls regarding America's presidential race would make Barack Obama the victor were they to count for anything, it appears his support was a little shaky of late among some officials in Iraq.

According to Wednesday's Washington Post, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari listened to Obama's campaign rhetoric about the need to pull out U.S. forces from his country, and didn't like what he was hearing. As he said to the Post's editorial board, "we are just turning the corner in Iraq," and so he told Obama in their recent meeting that he hoped the Democratic candidate would not sacrifice those gains if elected.

Zebari professes to have received a palatable, reassuring answer from Obama, to the point where the Post came away with the impression that Zebari now thinks "Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain."

If that's true, and Zebari repeats such an opinion with any frequency between now and the election, it could prove a dispiriting blow to Obama's domestic supporters, who look to Iraq as a principal point of distinction between their candidate and John McCain.

Moreover, Obama camp overtures to Iraqi officials appear to go beyond merely placating Mr. Zebari during his trip to America. According to a June 13 report in London's daily Al-Hayat newspaper, Zebari is quoted as saying Obama officials set up a conversation two weeks ago with Iraq's Ambassador to the United States, Samir Shakir al-Sumaydi.

According to Zebari's account of that meeting, relayed in Al-Hayat's report, Iraq's ambassador came away with the impression that an Obama presidency would not lead to "dramatic changes in Washington's policy on Iraq" because "Obama listens to the views of the field commanders on the ground."

Raghida Dergham, the Al-Hayat reporter who wrote that piece, also recently opined, in English, that "Barack Obama has already begun to break out of the cage he built around himself with his demagogic and simplistic statements on how to pull American troops out of Iraq."

That's not all bad news for Obama, because "not listening" to generals and not being open to new evidence coming out of Iraq are two accusations laid at his feet by the McCain campaign. On the latter count, it would probably be advantageous for Obama to show that his thinking is flexible, and driven by the latest findings on the ground in Iraq. (His reported plans for a visit to Iraq are likely aimed at achieving precisely that outcome.)

But the idea that Obama could be telling a foreign audience to discount -- to any degree -- his domestic rhetoric could also connect with the prior campaign controversy surrounding former economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, who found himself tangled up in the appearance of telling Canada not to mind Obama's criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement during primary season.

Appearing to want to have it both ways on a complex trade agreement is one thing. To do so on a matter of national security is likely something Obama can ill afford.

Emails to Obama officials for comment were not immediately returned.

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