No Timetable

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

No timetable

The Iraqi ambassador is reluctant to discuss the U.S. presidential campaign, even though the fate of his country hinges on the outcome of the November election.

Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have publicly pledged to withdraw troops if either wins the White House. Republican Sen. John McCain insists on keeping U.S. forces in Iraq until they defeat insurgents and terrorists and stabilize the country, even if American troops are there for a hundred years.

Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week that he thinks no responsible political leader would actually set a timetable for withdrawing troops after winning the presidency.

"Any responsible U.S. official will have to think long and hard before abandoning Iraq. I do not believe that any of them would [set a timetable] when they weigh up the situation," he said, though he did not mention Mr. Obama, from Illinois, or Mrs. Clinton, from New York, by name.

Mr. Sumaida'ie argued that his government is making progress and that the U.S. troop surge has provided a new level of security for the nation, though he conceded that Iraq is far from a stable nation and needs vast amounts of international aid.

"The fact is that we have made progress. We were at the brink of civil war, and we came back," he said. "We are now on an upward spiral."

Nevertheless, life for the average Iraqi remains hazardous, and many take extensive precautions just to avoid being targeted by terrorists as they go to work. He said diplomats at the Foreign Ministry often arrive wearing old clothes and looking like beggars, then change into suits when they get inside the building.

"Officials come to work in the morning and do not know whether they will make it through the day," he said. "These are the conditions under which we work."

The ambassador said Iraqis are thankful for the sacrifice made by U.S. troops and think Americans will show more support for the war if they see more victories. …