Reports from the Middle East say US Democratic presidential contender
Barack Obama will visit both Israel and the West Bank next week as part
of a major foreign trip. VOA's Michael Bowman reports, other stops
include Iraq, Afghanistan, and several European locations.
Obama campaign has released few details about the senator's forthcoming
itinerary, but Israeli and Palestinian officials say Obama will meet
separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas.
His Republican rival, Senator John
McCain, took a similar trip to the Middle East and Europe in March, and
has regularly visited Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust
Obama has been a fierce critic of the Bush
administration's handling of foreign affairs, especially the Iraq war.
Political analyst Larry Sabato, who heads the Center for Politics at
the University of Virginia, says the upcoming trip is critical for a
presidential aspirant with limited foreign policy credentials.
is criticizing our [US] policy in Iraq. He needs to see it on the
ground, and he has not been there [to Iraq] in years," he said. "It is
important that he talk to the world leaders with whom he may very well
be dealing come January [if elected president]."
describes the trip as a high-risk, high-reward opportunity for Obama,
who could either quell voters' doubts about his command of foreign
policy issues with a strong performance or amplify them with any
International public opinion polls show Obama with high
approval ratings in many countries. Sabato says he expects Obama will
get a warm reception at most stops on the trip, particularly in Europe.
Foreign leaders will have their own agendas, knowing that they could be
meeting with the next president of the United States, according to
"They will want to get off on the right foot with him
[Obama]," said Sabato. "They will want to impress him. They will want
to educate him about bilateral relations, multilateral relations, and
some of the issues with which he will have to deal if indeed he does
Monday, Obama reiterated his determination to
gradually withdraw US forces from Iraq should he win the election, and
refocus US military efforts to target al-Qaida and the Taliban in
Afghanistan. In a column in the New York Times newspaper, Obama said he
remains convinced that real political progress in Iraq will be achieved
only if America places a time limit on the duration of its troop
commitment in the country, but admitted that "tactical adjustments" to
the strategy may be needed based on advice from US commanders.
McCain has blasted Obama for opposing last year's US troop surge that
many credit for helping bring a fragile stability to Iraq that could
pave the way for future troop reductions. McCain has refused to embrace
a timetable for withdrawing US forces from Iraq, saying to do so would
embolden America's enemies.