October 11th, 2008
02:29 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Did Obama try to seek a delay in U.S.-Iraq talks?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/08/art.obama.slam.gi.jpg caption="Did Obama really try to slow down progress in U.S.-Iraq talks?"]The Statement:

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said at a campaign stop near Cincinnati, Ohio on Oct. 10 that "Senator Obama tried to make a secret deal with the Iraqi government" to delay an agreement that would spell out the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Referring to an Oct. 10 Washington Times article, Palin said Obama "tried to influence negotiations with Iraqi leaders in a way that would set back America's cause there."

Get the facts!

The Facts:

The United States and Iraq are negotiating a status of forces agreement, which would spell out the details of U.S. troop presence in Iraq after the U.N. mandate establishing their status expires at the end of the year. They are also negotiating a longer-term strategic framework agreement, which would define their political, security, cultural, and economic relationship.

The Times article said Obama "tried to convince Iraqi leaders in private conversations that the president shouldn't be allowed to enact the deal without congressional approval." It said "some of the specifics of the conversations remain the subject of dispute" and that Iraqi leaders said Obama "urged Baghdad to delay an agreement with Mr. Bush until next year when a new president will be in office - a charge the Democratic campaign denies."

The newspaper quoted Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaidaie about a June 16 telephone conversation between Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Sen. Barack Obama. "In the conversation, the senator urged Iraq to delay the (memorandum of understanding) between Iraqi and the United States until the new administration was in place," Sumaidaie said. A memorandum of understanding would be a short-term interim arrangement before the establishment of a status of forces agreement.

The Times report said Sumaidaie said he "did not participate in the call... but stood next to Mr. Zebari during the conversation and was briefed by him immediately afterward. The call was not recorded by either side, and Mr. Zebari did not respond to reported telephone and e-mail messages requesting direct comment." Sumaidaie is the only Iraqi leader quoted in the story.

Palin cited the Times article and said, "We've learned that Barack Obama tried to influence negotiations with Iraqi leaders in a way that would set back America's cause there, while advancing his campaign here," according to a pool report from her campaign stop. She added, "We learned this morning that Iraqi officials are saying Senator Obama tried to make a secret deal with the Iraqi government, and he apparently wanted this action delayed, some more strategy delayed, that would reduce troop numbers until the next president takes office."

The Obama-Biden campaign says Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations. Wendy Morigi, Obama national security spokeswoman, told CNN on Saturday that Obama told Zebari he supports the adoption of a status of forces agreement with immunity for U.S. troops, and that a strategic framework agreement should be vetted by the U.S. Congress once it is forged.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry, in an e-mail received by CNN on June 17, said that Zebari spoke to Sen. Obama, but it didn't make reference to any request for a delay. It said Obama "stressed that his administration wants to reassure the Iraqi people and their government" that it "would not make any critical or irresponsible decisions regarding the U.S. military presence and it would not undermine successes already achieved."

On Sunday, Oct. 12, Zebari issued a statement rejecting the allegations in the Washington Times article. Obama "never, ever discouraged" the signing of an agreement, Zebari said in the statement, adding, "I think this was misrepresented."

The Verdict:

In dispute. Both Obama and the Iraqi official with whom he had the conversation, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, deny Obama ever pushed for a delay. But the article Palin was citing quoted another Iraqi official who said he was next to Zebari during the conversation and was briefed by Zebari right afterward.

(Updated Sunday, October 12, to reflect new developments)

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • Sarah Palin
soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. nelda

    more lies from Palin.

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. Watching Closely

    Again, McCain let's Palin loose and she farts at the mouth with inaccurate information. Maybe they should place her back on moratorium and wait until the elections are over. She's causing an awful bust of this campaign. As if John can't do bad by himself.

    October 11, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. april

    Once again Palin is throwing around accusations without mentioning all the facts or simply completely ignoring them! This conversation with the Mr. Zebari happened in June, and we are just now hearing from McCain/Palin on this. McPalin says they are interested in informing the voting public about Obama's true character. If that is so, why are they delaying highlighting this information (this includes the Ayers story)? The voting public knows exactly why!

    October 11, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. NOT 4 more years

    If he did, then good for him... he's trying to establish a relationship unlike the current President who cuts off talks with leaders and think they care or is fearful of the United States

    October 11, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Alaska

    Anonymous said...
    On Daily Kos, an interesting article about the building of the Palin's house, and how it coincided with the building of the super new sports complex, and how Todd Palin says he built it with the help of some friends!!!
    Hope we have some investigative reporters out there who could do some follow up, do you have any Alaskan bloggers?

    October 11, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  6. Katran Miller

    McCain and Palin have kept their word in one respect at least; they said last weekend they wanted to turn the page on the economy and get back to attacking Obama. They are doing so, with innuendo, smears, and hearsay.

    They are throwing as many attacks as possible and trying to keep the American public confused, off-balance, and angry, so that we won't be able to hear the candidates discuss the economy, home foreclosures, health care and foreign policy.

    Obama, please keep sticking to the latter. We're glad that you're trying to dodge the spew-fest as much as possible and talk to us about America instead of tabloid rumors.

    October 11, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. mb

    bushe delayed it. I saw it in a article, he said that the US would leave it for the next president.
    palin needs to be taking care of that mess she has created in alaska and unless the people want todd to be the next president, they need to wake up and be smart.

    October 11, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. Black and White for Obama

    Verdict False.

    October 11, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. bannedfromcnnforbeingmorethanamoron

    By the way ,CNN is owned by a Republican.Think about it!How do YOU sleep at night moderator?Do you TRULY hate moderates?

    October 11, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. aj

    If no evidence exists beyond second hand testimonial, then why is this in dispute. The primarq

    October 11, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. linda from South Dakota

    sarahmm get your facts stright before you start blabbing your mouth,,,,in fact quit and go back to alaska,,,,,you have enought problems there to deal with,,

    October 11, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. abraxis

    Are the repubs saying that someone who wanted to infuse some rational thinking in trying to NOT commit our soldiers in a place where they shouldn't have been in the first place and in that agreement would tie the hands of the next president in his administration is a bad thing?

    Do the repubs have anything else to talk about like regulating the banking industry or how to end the war in Iraq or go after the people who actually attacked us or how to turn our economy around? May be they no longer believe that McDufus and Knuckle Head are capable of addressing those issues so distractions are needed before their political party implode.

    October 11, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. mary

    Is Sarah Palin a trouble maker, she cannot get the facts straight, before she opens her mouth.

    October 11, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  14. Eileen from Maine

    It's too bad that john McCain demonstrated such poor judgment by selecting a bald faced liar to join him on the Republican ticket.

    October 11, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. aj

    If no evidence exists beyond second-hand hearsay, and if none of the primaries in the conversation confirm it, then how is this in dispute and not plain old FALSE?

    October 11, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Mark Hudson

    More lies from the Obama camp. When does this guy ever tell us the TRUTH. Obama will say anything to get elected.

    October 11, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  17. kentucky

    We already know the credibility of this woman. Anything she says is scripted and not creditable. I'm sure that we will soon see a talking Sarha Palin doll. Pull the string and its says anything you want it to and occasionally says "I'm a Maverick". "Tod" "You betcha", and dog gone."

    October 11, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. Juan Grain


    Turkey headed

    That eats yellow snow

    October 11, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. John

    Wikipedia "The Washington Times." It is known to be ultra-conservative and error-prone. It's a rag. Until the story comes from other media-outlets, it shouldn't be trusted.

    October 11, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. M. Ben




    October 11, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. banderson

    Why is the media reporting this garbage? About one month ago this same accusation was made in the New York Post by a obvious right wing commentator and here we are again with another right wing paper saying the same thing. I would ask the media to think about this, why would a foreign government official report to a right wing commentator something that a presidential candidate stated to their countrys leader. I will tell you, it's all politics to help the McCain camp plain and simple. Please don't fall for this nonsense.

    October 11, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  22. Grok

    Obama looks likely to be president soon.

    It make sense that people ask for his opinions about the future of American policy.

    Get used to it.

    As for saying this is "in dispute"... how about calling it questionable until something reputable is presented. It's very easy for someone speaking another language to use wording that can be twisted... and oh my, we've seen a lot of twisting and fast-talking out of Republicans of late.

    October 11, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  23. Mike

    More disgusting lies. The Republican Senator Hagel was there. Hagel said flat out, it did not happen !

    October 11, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. keepitreal50

    What Obama told them is that it would not be appropriate for him to advise them on any actions that would undercut the sitting presidents policy agenda. THAT'S WHAT HE SAID!

    October 11, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  25. Grok

    To Mark Hudson... your statement reflects your own sides proclivities more so than the other.

    McCain and Palin are saying just about anything they can in the hopes of getting more votes. Unfortunately, the kool-aide drinkers such as yourself are the only ones buying it.

    They've already got your vote locked up... why keep feeding you baloney?

    October 11, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9