Saturday, April 25, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes her first trip to Iraq today

She arrived at the Baghdad International Airport and was greeted by the newly appointed U.S Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill.

This surprise visit came just as a wave of violence engulfed the country just weeks before US troops leave Iraqi cities and it is her first trip here as Secretary of State. I think her last visit was in January of 2007.

While in Iraq, Hillary said that Washington remains committed to moving U.S. soldiers out of urban areas by June 30 and pulling out combat troops from the country by 2011.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surprised us all when news headlines started reporting she was in Baghdad, Iraq today.

She and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari addressed the media at a press conference in an auditorium at the Foreign Ministry.

"Our strategy in working with you may be in a new phase, but we pledge our full and continuing commitment to Iraq and the Iraqi people. As we draw down militarily we will deepen our civilian cooperation."

The withdrawal will proceed in a "responsible and careful way," she said, and would not affect efforts to improve Iraq's security forces, or complete reconstruction and development projects.

Zebari welcomed Clinton's "very assuring message that the United States would continue to support the efforts of the Iraqi government and the enhancement of Iraqi security and stability." He said Iraqi authorities wanted to ensure there is "no vacuum" when U.S. troops leave.

Clinton made clear, however, that Iraqis and their security forces in particular need to overcome sectarian and other differences if they are to build a united, secure nation, she said.

Hillary spoke out against the suicide bombings Thursday and Friday that primarily targeted Shiite worshippers killed more than 150 people, many of them Iranian pilgrims, claiming the attacks were a sign that extremists are afraid Iraq's government is succeeding. The second attack, at a revered Baghdad tomb, was the single deadliest bombing in the country this year.

"I condemn these violent recent efforts to disrupt the progress that Iraq is making."

But she said the response by the government and its people was "firm and united in rejecting that violence and refusing to allow it to set Iraqi against Iraqi, which is obviously one of its intended goals." These attacks, she said, "do not reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made."

Iran's supreme leader blamed the U.S. and Israel for the attacks. "Dirty hands and evil brains that founded this blind and uncontrolled terrorism in Iraq should know that the fire will burn themselves," Iran's state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Saturday.

Hillary's response to the statement: "It is disappointing for anyone to make such a claim since it is clearly traced to the al-Qaida remnants and other violent groups who wish to disrupt the progress of Iraq."

Hillary also participated in a town hall hosted at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, taking questions from Iraqi civilians and civil leaders.

"Frankly, some people are afraid," adding the many questioned the ability, competence and neutrality of Iraq's security forces, given the U.S. withdrawal plan.

Hillary assured them, saying:

"There is nothing more important than to have a united Iraq. The more united Iraq is, the more you will trust your security services. The security services have to earn your trust but the people have to demand it.

We will be working closely with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces as we withdraw our combat troops, but we need to be sure that all of you are supporting a strong, nonsectarian security force and we will work to try and help make that happen."

To the nervous but receptive town hall crowd, Clinton said the U.S. commitment in the years ahead "may look somewhat different" because of the troop pullout timetable.

Read the full transcript of the town hall here!

President Obama plans to withdraw American combat troops by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving 30,000 to 50,000 troops in training and advisory roles. Under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, those remaining American troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

Andrea Mitchell's traveling with the Secretary. Short interview below:


Still4Hill said...

She's full of surprises, isn't she? Little turbo-Secretary, after a long hard week, goes winging off to a war zone! Like a gold medal gymnast, she makes it all look easy! Go Hillary! (And then come home to us safely, please!)

Sarah said...

yes, its like WHEN does this woman sleep? does she even sleep?!

Jackie said...

Hillary is like the Energizer Bunny, she keeps going and going. I also wanted to say to Sarah this is a wonderful sight, Especially for a TRUE Hillary lover. Thank You.

Mahlers5th said...

Sarah, this isn't about Hillary in Iraq, but how was that journalism forum you attended with Paul begala, Arianna Huffington, etc.? Just curious.

Sarah said...

Jackie- energizer bunny sums it up perfectly! and wow thanks for the nice compliment on the site. I truly pour my heart and soul into this site so its really great to hear back from those that appreciate it!

Mahlers5th- the forum was really good! I thought I posted a little bit about it but maybe I didnt and forgot... oops!

Anyway, Chris Matthews opened with some prepared remarks, in his Hardball style but a little different. More elegantly composed and less annoying :) heh

Matthews seems to be a little obsessed with the fact that Obama chose Hill as SOS. He talked about it in his opening remarks, something along the lines of how Obama chose her as his SOS, his former rival, and how that choice shows his strong character and ability to put egos aside and it shows that he knows that he "needs her"...

Also, the first question Matthews posed to the panel was "What do you think of Obama's SOS choice?" I immediately got a pit in my stomach because I was worried about their opinions, but ALL of them said how this role is a perfect fit for her and how she is the best choice hands down.

It was actually Tucker Carlson who said, without sarcasm might I add: "Hillary is the toughest person in the world... If I had to choose one person to sit across the table from Amademajad and negotiate, it would be Hillary Clinton."

I loved that!

Also, I thought this was really interesting... Paul Begala talked in detail about when Hillary came to Chicago back in December for one day, (a day which I remember vividly!) and that day is when Obama asked her to be SOS.

Begala said she said no at first, and that she really did not want to do it. (but that Bill was "all for it.")

Begala said she wanted to stay in the senate and work on healthcare... he said she thought healthcare was her calling after the campaign. But that Obama "would not take no for an answer"

The rest of the forum was mostly about the economy and other hot topics like that... it was really good and I hope I can get some free tix to the Carville / Rove debate. Now, THAT would be some good stuff :)

Jackie said...

I wish I could have been at the forum. Chris Matthews is always obsessed with the Clintons. He can't get over the fact that he tried to ruin her during the primary, and he could not. When Hillary get's knocked down she always get's right back up. I am so proud of her. Obama did a very smart thing by choosing Hillary, and Chris Matthews can suck it !

Sarah said...

Jackie- well said. Its like nothing can even touch Hillary! did you see the video of the two of them arguing during the campaign? and she just shakes it off and gives him a hug... i love it! its posted here:

oh btw- are you from the Chicago area??

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