Biden visits Baghdad amid political impasse

Will meet with country’s leaders, offer assurances

Vice President Joe Biden stepped off a military aircraft upon arrival in Baghdad for a Fourth of July holiday weekend visit. It was his fourth trip to Iraq as vice president. Vice President Joe Biden stepped off a military aircraft upon arrival in Baghdad for a Fourth of July holiday weekend visit. It was his fourth trip to Iraq as vice president. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)
By Leila Fadel
Washington Post / July 4, 2010

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BAGHDAD — Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Baghdad yesterday for the Fourth of July holiday in the midst of a political deadlock nearly four months after Iraq’s national election.

Biden arrived at a time when many question whether the US policy in Iraq is adrift. They say they worry that with a shift of attention toward America’s other war, in Afghanistan, and so much attention on the planned drawdown and ultimate withdrawal of US troops, the United States is focused only on its exit and not the success of a still very shaky democracy in Iraq.

This was Biden’s fourth trip to Iraq as vice president. President Obama has visited once since he became commander in chief.

“A distant policy in this country is deemed as a weakness and also deemed as a failure,’’ said Fawzi Hariri, Iraq’s minister of industry. “It gives the wrong message to Syria and Iran, and it will give the wrong message to the Taliban.’’

Biden’s visit may be a signal to Iraq that the US administration is still engaged. A White House statement said Biden would celebrate the holiday with the troops, “reaffirm’’ the US “long-term commitment’’ to Iraq, and discuss recent developments.

Biden and his wife, Jill, were greeted by US Ambassador Christopher Hill, General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq, Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, and two other senior military commanders. Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were also in Iraq on an unrelated trip; they greeted the vice president later, before he went into meetings.

At Odierno’s residence, where Biden met with Hill and the general, the vice president said he was optimistic about the formation of the Iraqi government.

“In one sense, it looks the most difficult putting the government together. In another sense, this is local politics. This is not a lot different than any other government,’’ Biden told a group of journalists. “The parties are all talking . . . I remain, as I have from the beginning, extremely optimistic about the government being formed here, that it will be representative, represent all the major parties.’’

Today, Biden will meet with Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who are vying for Iraq’s top job. Each will have an hour with the vice president.

Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc won a plurality in the March election, with a thin lead over Maliki’s political bloc. Some say the two are nearing a deal that could break the deadlock. But others say that without more US pressure, neither may compromise enough.

Tomorrow, Biden will meet with Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, and the head of the religious Shi’ite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

Biden’s last visit was widely criticized. He left without helping to solve what was seen as a political crisis that deepened sectarian tensions after some candidates were barred from the March vote, officials said at the time. top stories on Twitter

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