Obama’s Iraq Ambassador: I Wanted Troops to Stay in Iraq

The statement reaffirms what Obama has tried to downplay: the administration pushed to stay in Iraq

President Obama’s former ambassador to Iraq, who served during the withdrawal of US forces, said on Thursday he was in favor of keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011, reaffirming what the Obama campaign has doggedly tried to erase from history.

“My feeling was we needed, for political reasons, US troops in country carrying out the training mission [past 2011] … I thought it was important to have an American presence and a new Status of Forces Agreement,” former ambassador Jim Jeffrey told The Cable.

“The more troops you keep in Iraq, as far as I was concerned,” Jeffrey added, “the better, as long as the Iraqis went along with it.”

But they didn’t. After months of diplomatic pressure, the Obama administration failed to secure a Status of Forces Agreement that would have given the remaining US troops presence legal immunity.

President Obama has consistently claimed in this campaign that he “ended the war in Iraq.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth: his administration tried desperately to keep thousands of US troops there, perhaps indefinitely. Only when this effort failed, did Obama fall back on the Bush administration’s agreement to pull all troops out in 2011.

In the final presidential debate last month, Romney correctly pushed back on President Obama’s claims to the contrary.

“With regards to Iraq,” Romney said, “you and I agreed I believe that there should be a status of forces agreement.”

Obama balked and tried to deny this accurate charge. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down,” President Obama claimed, in direct contradiction of the facts.

“I’m sorry,” Romney said, “you actually — there was an effort on the part of the president to have a status of forces agreement, and I concurred in that, and said that we should have some number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred with…”

Jeffrey also told The Cable that the dictatorial Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wanted US troops to stay, but could not get around the parliament trying to block the moves.

“Maliki said at one point, ‘Why don’t we just do this as an executive agreement?'” Jeffrey said. “I didn’t think he was serious, and I didn’t think he had thought it through.”

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.