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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Juan Cole gives Obama high marks on policy on Iraq, Iran and Pakistan

Here’s what leading mid-east expert Cole says”

When Obama came into office in January, 142,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq, conducting regular patrols of the major cities. His Republican rivals were dead set against U.S. withdrawal on a strict timetable. He faced something close to an insurrection from some of his commanders in the field, such as Gen. Ray Odierno, who opposed a quick departure from Iraq. Moreover, Obama assumed the presidency at a time when Iran and the U.S. were virtually on a war footing and there had been no direct talks between the two countries on most of the major issues dividing them. In February, the government of Pakistan virtually ceded the Swat Valley and the Malakand Division to the Pakistani Taliban of Maulvi Fazlullah, allowing the imposition of the latter’s fundamentalist version of Islamic law on residents, and Islamabad had no stomach for taking on the increasingly bold extremists.
Eight months later, it is a different world. While it is still early in his presidency, and there is too much work unfinished to give him an overall grade, it’s already apparent he’s outperforming his predecessor.

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