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September 16, 2008

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Nabil

Taheri!?! He'll do anything to ensure McCain wins, in the hopes that he'll get to be the first Prime Minister of a "free" Iran.

Cut from the same cloth as Chalabi. Buyer beware.

Reidar

This reminds me about another "scoop" by Taheri: a cellphone interview, no less, with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during the early days of the Iraq War. It was published in the WSJ on 8 April 2003, and can be found at http://www.16beavergroup.org/mtarchive/archives/000020.php
Was there ever any discussion about this article?

Responder

Amir Taheri is in Baghdad practically every month. For what it is worth, the revelations about what Obama said in private versus what he said in public during his brief stopover in Baghdad, as related by Taheri, are accurate. I've heard the same thing too, and then again, Taheri has far better sources in the UIA than I do.

I guess what Taheri meant by "two elections" were 2000 and 2004, i.e. the past two U.S. elections, and the long transitions that take place in Washington, not Baghdad.

Eric Martin

Wow Responder, that is some persuasive evidence. You've heard the same thing too? Any links? Sources? Citations?

No offense, but on what basis should we give your comment any credence?

Taheri is a well-documented serial fabricator, so we need more than an anonymous blog comment offering verbal support.

Mark

Taheri is on the downward side of his career slope. He came out with a piece in July about an al qaeda theorist who wrote a "new" book (http://www.nypost.com/seven/07012008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/al_qaedas_plan_b_117936.htm).

Trouble is, Will McCants translated this book two years prior to Taheri's column... (http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/olin/images/Management%20of%20Savagery%20-%2005-23-2006.pdf)

Ethan

I'm new to this blog, but have been aware of it (and its excellent reputation) for some time. I didn't know you delved into politics. While Taheri's article may be off, his facts a bit confused and the gist pointedly partisan, your defense is either a direct response to his bias or simply biased in general.

In your cross examination, you have discredited Zebari by challenging the accuracy of time/date/location of his interactions with Obama and his understanding of politics and elections. Good call. Taheri has an agenda as well--okay, given. Sketchy sources with sketchy agendas.

All politics aside (McCain claiming this, Obama defending that, bs, bs, yadda, yadda, etc), however, I still think its valid to point out that Obama DID, as clarified by his National Security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi, ask that the signing of SOFA be put off until after the Bush Administration is out of office.

Doesn't it raise a few questions? Don't we want to honorably and responsibly end this conflict as soon as possible, regardless of who is in office? Isn't that in the best interest of the country? And this statement didn't come from some dodgy Iraqi or Iranian exile journalist--it came from Obama's spokeswoman.

So, either you've either totally ignored the validity of what TRULY transpired (according to Wendy Morigi as quoted by AFP at: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hi9TDNHvuBZpFsO8ZbiFYsnbIl3A) or chose to employ displacement by attacking every other facet of the claimant, the journalist, dates, locations, etc, in order to shift attention.

I simply point this out because it betrays bias, not because I care one way or the other.

Normally, this sphere of blogging remains above political bias. If I wanted politics I'd watch FoxNews and MSNBC and read HuffPost and Instapundit. But I don't--I want accurate, unbiased, focused discussion of operations and issues that affect national security and foreign policy.

I'm still a big fan and will remain so--

will

Ethan,
Taheri contends that Obama "tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence." This allegation assumes that signing a Status of Forces Agreement is a precondition to withdrawing US troops from Iraq, (or that the two are somehow connected) so if Obama is delaying a SOFA, he is also delaying a troop draw-down or withdrawal. However, the Bush administration's main reason for wanting a SOFA with the Iraqi government in the first place is to KEEP US troops in Iraq for an extended period of time. This is why the Muslim Scholars Association and other Iraqi nationalists are opposed to the US-Maliki negotiations. Maliki has responded to this opposition/pressure by requesting more recently that the agreement include a time horizon/time table for a US withdrawal. Obama's request that the Iraqi government delay signing a SOFA with President Bush thus in no way prevents a US withdrawal. If Harith Al-Dhari is right, the inability of the Bush administration to sign the agreement will actually hasten a US withdrawal because the US will no longer have any legal basis to keep forces in the country.

Responder

"Taheri is a serial fabricator"...isn't that a bit much?

Taheri runs two columns, one in English in the New York Post, and has done so for years and years, and another in Arabic in Asharq Al-Awsat. He's probably produced thousands and thousands of words, in both languages (...never mind his native Farsi), on every imaginable topic related to the Middle East. Hence, one would assume that he has plenty of experience, not to mention plenty of sources, from which he can draw upon.

Do you really think that he'd jeapordize his entire career just to "fabricate" a story on Obama?

If he were a "serial fabricator" as you allege (BTW, where are your "links? Sources? Citations?" against Taheri?) then don't you think his professional career would have been jeapordized by that? I mean, the media/blogosphere is not exactly a friendly realm to anyone holding a somewhat nuanced view of Obama? Don't you agree?

I realize that you really, really adore Obama, but you must allow a little room for criticism when Obama makes misjudgements.

Ethan

Will--

Hmm. The issues are more complex than you present them, although at the end you do prove my point. Also, you either purposely left out an important interpretation or you totally missed it.

The Bush Administration wanted the SOFA to have a legal basis to stay in Iraq, yes--we are in agreement. However, if a SOFA is not signed, do you honestly think we, regardless of who is in power, will say, "Oh, wow, we can't be here legally. Pack up, boys! Let's go home!" Seriously? Really?

Secondly, it is true--again we are in agreement--that the Bush Admin wanted to stay for a long time. However, the Iraqis put their foot down and asked for a time horizon. Bush and McCain stupidly said no. However, the Admin relented on the date set for the majority of combat troops to exit (2012, I think? I doubt the Iraqi leadership honestly want us gone before then). Did Bush do it to disarm Obama's anti-war support? Perhaps.

Here is what you missed (or omitted):

1. Given the Iraqi's needs (they need us there in the immediate future) and Iraq's domestic pressure (they want us gone in the long run), it is essentially a given that our troops are coming home within the next administration. No ifs, and, or buts about it--we are on our way out. Thus, what is the purpose of delaying the SOFA? Honestly--give me one?

The only reason would be for the political credit: the Iraqis have set a timeframe so the SOFA wouldn't change regardless of who signed it.

2. Your own statement is revealing. You are absolutely right that the SOFA won't prevent a withdrawal. Thus, if Obama wants to withdraw early, nothing is stopping him. The SOFA is a non-issue if he wants to withdraw--so why postpone it? Why delay it? Why try to stop it until after the elections? Can you give me a reason?

The only one that I can think of is that he wanted to be remembered in history at the one who signaled the end. He signed the agreement/withdrawal "horizon". However, since the Iraqis wouldn't (couldn't?) delay it and because the Bush Administration wanted to defuse Obama's "end the war" strength, he was denied that chance.

aardvark

all interesting comments - thanks. I'm not interested in Taheri's past history or reputation or personality, which is why I didn't bring it up. I'm only interested in the argument he presents in this column. As I wrote in the post, he makes two big claims and I have seen nothing to convince me that he is right about either.

1. Did Obama make delaying the SOFA a major priority in Baghdad? "Responder" says s/he has sources that say yes, I have pretty good sources that say no. More significantly, Taheri cites only one source, Zebari, whose interview is materially irrelevant since it refers only to conversations which took place a month before Obama's visit to Baghdad. Maybe he (or "Responder") has other sources, but he does not cite them and I see no reason to take this on faith.

2. Would Obama urging a delay of the SOFA - if it were true - mean that he was trying to delay a U.S. withdrawal while claming the opposite? No. That was the real point of Taheri's column, and it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny - nor has it been defended anywhere I've seen. I'm not sure how it could be, since it just makes no sense, especially to anyone familiar with the evolution and substance of the U.S.- Iraq negotiations.

Even if I granted everything from point 1 (which I don't), it wouldn't affect point 2 at all - and point 2 was really Taheri's point. Sorry, Ethan, if that seems overly political, but it is relevant to public debate over the long-term agreement.

Off now...

spartikus

Responder leaves the impression he is intimately familiar with Taheri's work. If so, I'm surprised he has never heard of some of the apologies his newspapers have had to make in response to his columns. Or issues with sources in his books. Amongst other things.

Serial fabricator is, in fact, too kind.

Laleh

Taheri is indeed a serial fabricator. Don't you remember his story a couple of years ago about how the Iranian government was requiring Iranian Jews and Christians to wear a special badge? Turned out to be total bullshit. At the time, much else that he had fabricated previously vis-a-vis Iran was dug up. Just look him up. You shall see.

aardvark

Everyone - please keep future comments focused on substantive questions of Taheri's argument.
Thanks!

Christopher

A quick question: It's my understanding that Taheri only writes columns for Al-Sharq al-Awsat's English language edition, and not its Arabic language edition. Is Taheri even able to write columns in Arabic, as someone claimed earlier? Does anyone know? Thanks.

Nabil

I don't agree that we should "keep future comments focused on substantive questions of Taheri's argument." When a public figure has lost their credibility, we have every reason to bring that up later. Otherwise, life is one big do-over, and there's no accountability whatsoever.

Individuals like Taheri can peddle their gossip all over the NY Post / al-Sharq al-Awsat, etc if those publications choose to run it -- and the general public will swallow it whole. We, the proverbial "peanut gallery," then have a duty to point out past transgressions to whomever cares enough to follow a blog like this one.

aardvark

Taheri's columns do appear regularly in the Arabic al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Nabil - that's not what I meant, sorry - I meant that I want conversation focused on the topic at hand, not on each other. At least one submittted comment focused instead on another commenter.

I'm going to be out at a workshop all day, so if your comments don't show up immediately that's why.

Eric Martin

Do you really think that he'd jeapordize his entire career just to "fabricate" a story on Obama?

Since he has played fast and loose with the facts in the past, why would he think his career would be jeopardized by an unfounded attack on Obama?

Are you suggesting that Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the NY Post and Fox News, would fire a columnist for such an infraction?

Really?

Otherwise, what Spartikus said.

will

Ethan,
If the US were to lose legal status for the troops currently in Iraq, of course that would not, on its own, be enough to make Bush or any future president withdraw them. However, the Bush administration does have lawyers and Bush's interest in securing a SOFA indicates that they do in fact want some legal status to legitimate the US presence. I did not mean to indicate that losing such a legal status would be sufficient to rid Iraq of occupying forces.

Second, I do not believe that US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the next administration, regardless of who wins the election. Iraq is too important strategically for us to voluntarily give up a military presence there (even though that would be the morally correct thing to do), though certainly a draw-down, or keeping troops only in remote bases or as advisors to Iraqi forces would certainly be desirable from the US government's point of view.

If Obama was trying to delay the signing of a SOFA, it would not surprise me if he was trying to do so for his own political benefit. I am not an Obama supporter and am therefore not interested in defending him. However, it was incredulous for Taheri to say that Obama was trying to post-pone a troop withdrawal just by asking for a delay in signing the SOFA. The two issues are unconnected.

Christopher

Does Taheri write the columns in Arabic or are they translated for the Arabic edition?

I'm just interested in getting the facts straight.

annie

what sense does it make for a country to make a status of force agreement (not to be confused w/a status of non force agreement ie withdrawl) w/a country that will be changing leaders in a few months?

it makes complete sense to wait til a new administration comes into office, because then whatever agreements are made one might assume will be respected by the administration that signs them.

this is common sense, which maliki demonstrates. obviously the objective of the current administration to get these agreements in writing, is to bind both the current iraqi administration and the future US administration to it's will. in a few months the cheney administration will be a thing of the past. i can't wait. the less we (the global community) have to bind us to the failures they represent, the better.

fnord

Its interesting to see the spin-machine in action. You gotta love the MC cain-camps response:

"At this point, it is not yet clear what official American negotiations Senator Obama tried to undermine with Iraqi leaders, but the possibility of such actions is unprecedented."

Translation: "There is currently no evidence that Obama has had sexual intercourse with farm animals, but the possibility of such sexual acts are unprecedented."

"It should be concerning to all that he reportedly urged that the democratically-elected Iraqi government listen to him rather than the US administration in power. "

translation: "It should be concerning to all that he reportedly had sexual intercourse with animals."

Wich they declare in the first sentence that they know nothing about. How low can you sink? Over at Abu Muqawama, a very interested reader tried to engage the populace (including Reidar Visser) in finding out wether Obamas father was Sunni or Shia, since (he being a muslim by blood, etc) this would affect relations in the ME. Polls to jewish voetrs have made Obama out to be a best friend of Hamas. This is called meme-planting, and is disgusting. It shows the true levels of the McCain campaign. Hounorable indeed. Its sad to see a old man sell his soul for power.

Peter H

Aardvark,

Why should Taheri's past history of fabrications be off-limits to this discussion? Don't you think his past history is releveant to evaluating the credibility of his current accusations against Obama?

Eric Martin

Given the update to this post - that points out that Republicans were in attendance at the meeting that Obama supposedly tried to delay the SOFA and those Republicans back up Obama's story - should I now assume that Amir Taheri's entire career is in jeopardy?

Surely Rupert Murdoch would never let one of his columnists get away with such blatant fabrication and/or recklessly negligent disregard for fact checking. Right?

Right?

(crickets chirping)

abu aarvark

I don't think that Taheri's record is off-limits, just unnecessary - his column fails on its own merits.

The comment above referred to several submitted comments which attacked other commenters, rather than the topic at hand.

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