Los Angeles Times
Saturday, July 26, 2008
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s electoral rival is John McCain, but Obama’s overseas trip this week has given heartburn to another Republican — President Bush.
In stop after stop across the Middle East and Europe, Obama was embraced as the man whose promise of change meant a change from Bush: on Iraq, Mideast peace, the treatment of terrorism suspects, climate change, alliance relations and more.
The tour has brought into focus how world leaders already are positioning themselves for a new American president.
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Obama’s debut appearance on the international stage was the most vivid demonstration yet that the world is moving beyond the Bush era, even while the White House works frantically in its last six months to salvage what it can of its foreign policy agenda.
The trip had to come as a jolt for administration officials, said Wayne White, a senior State Department intelligence official in Bush’s first term. “I’m sure it was a bit rattling for the administration to see someone treated with such deference,” he said.
In Baghdad, Iraqi leaders who have appeared to be intimate allies of the White House suddenly were saying they wanted the kind of rough deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal that Obama has endorsed — and Bush has repeatedly rejected.
In Jerusalem, key leaders signaled that they could accept Obama’s proposal for high-level talks with Iran, an approach that Bush labeled “appeasement” in an appearance before the Israeli parliament this spring.
The Iraq visit brought to light frictions in the U.S.-Iraqi relationship and may have jeopardized the Bush’s administration’s chances of concluding negotiations over the U.S. military role in Iraq that the administration had hoped to wrap up by the end of the year.
Last weekend, in tense exchanges, administration officials succeeded in persuading Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to partially take back his July 18 comment to the German magazine Der Spiegel that he favored Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 16 months. Yet when Obama arrived in Baghdad on Monday, Maliki spokesman Ali Dabbagh said that withdrawing troops by the end of 2010, only a few months beyond the timetable suggested by Obama, sounded just about right.
The comments appeared to change the debate from whether the United States should draw down in Iraq to how to deal with a different challenge, the militant threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s the discussion Obama has been urging.
Israeli leaders have been steadfastly loyal to Bush, sometimes describing him as the strongest supporter of Israel ever to inhabit the Oval Office.
This article was posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 3:03 am