Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's first moves on the Middle East

From The Washington Post, January 21, 2009, by Michael D. Shear and William Branigin:

President Obama launched immediately into the grim reality of his new job today, placing calls to the leaders of Middle Eastern countries and conducting his first presidential meetings on the economy and Iraq ....

...Aides said Obama called President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Obama pledged "active engagement" for a fragile cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.

"In the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, he emphasized his determination to work to help consolidate the cease-fire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from re-arming, and facilitating in partnership with the Palestinian Authority a major reconstruction effort for Palestinians in Gaza," press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

...[Obama] will be briefed on the war in Iraq. Aides have said he plans to tell them that he wants to begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops. According to a statement, included at the national security meeting will be: Biden; a representative from the State Department; Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; the national security adviser, Gen. James Jones; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen; Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command; the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker; and Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq. Odierno is in Iraq and will participate through a video conference....

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