The New York Post is no friend of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Any knock of Obama by its editorial writers and op-ed columnists should be taken with the whole bag of salt. That's likely the case with this stunning allegation that's making its way around the internet courtesy of Post Columnist Amir Taheri. He alleges that in a private talk with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari during his visit to Iraq in July, Obama allegedly tried to talk Zebari and other Iraqi leaders into stalling the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
The alleged reason for the Obama request for a foot drag on troop withdrawal says Taheri was to give him an election boost. The Post's Taheri allegedly says that Zebari says Obama put it this way, "He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington." If true, this would be politically duplicitous and cynical election tact. It would be a huge body blow to Obama in light of his oft repeated mantra that he wants the troops out of Iraq as quickly as militarily possible.
Obama has at times shaded the mantra and said that he'd rely on the commanders on the ground to determine the pace of the withdrawal. But even that wouldn't make the charge any less damaging to his credibility on Iraq -- again if the charge is true.
The Iranian-born Taheri who reports the alleged "private" conversation between Obama and Zebari has been roundly and repeatedly slammed as a rabid, political ax grinding neo-con shill. He may well be that and more. Still, the charge is out there, so Team Obama please say that it's nonsense.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back (Middle Passage Press, August 2008).