A look back: Obama’s first--and only--Iraq visit in 2006

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WASHINGTON—On a Saturday afternoon–it was Jan. 7, 2006– I got an alert from the office of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) that he would be doing a conference call with reporters from Baghdad. A little later, the call came through. Obama told us about how the plane maneuvered to land in Baghdad without becoming a target. Obama was on a swing through Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Israel and the West Bank, his first trip to the region. The travel was part official, part not. The Iraq stop was congressional business. Obama was visiting Israel with the Jewish Federation of Chicago.

Even though Obama had not been in Iraq long he met with western reporters in Baghdad and discussed Iraq on the conference call with reporters in the U.S. where he said there is no military solution to the war.

Click below for my story…..

January 8, 2006 Sunday

Final Edition

Obama sees no military solution in Iraq: He visits Baghdad, calls for Sunni participation, U.S. troop reductions

BYLINE: Lynn Sweet, The Chicago Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — In Baghdad Saturday, Sen. Barack Obama said “there is not going to be a military solution here in Iraq” and that the challenge of the new government is “figuring out how minority rights are protected.”

Obama (D-Ill.) said “if we don’t see significant political progress” over the next six months or so, “we can pour money and troops in here until the cows come home but we are not going to be successful.”

It is important, Obama said, “to start phasing down the troops” and “to give the Iraqis more ownership.”

Obama, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, is on a weeklong visit to the Middle East as part of a congressional delegation. It is his first trip to the region.

Later this week Obama visits Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, hooking up in Jerusalem with representatives of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

On Friday, at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Obama played basketball with soldiers and dined with members of the military from Illinois.

After flying to Baghdad in a military cargo plane, Obama helicoptered to the Green Zone, the heavily secured city within the city, staying in a poolhouse built for Saddam Hussein.

He met for an hour with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and later went outside the fortified zone to dine with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Obama ran for Senate in 2004 strongly opposing the Iraq war and has called for a reduction in U.S. troops, to be determined mainly by advances in politics and security.

In November, in a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, talked about the political domination of majority Shiites over minority Sunnis: “With the Shiites increasingly in control of the government, the U.S. is viewed as the military force that is keeping the Shiites in power, picking sides in the conflict, driving a wedge between the factions, and keeping the Sunnis out of the government.”

On Saturday, Obama discussed Iraq with members of the western media in Baghdad and in a conference call with reporters in the United States. In the telephone call, Obama called for stronger Sunni participation in Iraq’s security forces and for a government to be formed along more sectarian lines.

The Associated Press reported Talabani predicted Saturday that a new government could be formed within weeks and said the country’s main political groups had agreed in principle on a national unity coalition that would include Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.

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