The Temple of Hercules is just one of the stops Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, will make today when he comes to Jala al-Qalaa in Amman, Jordan, with his merry men, Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Jack Reed, D-RI, fresh out of their V-22 Osprey from Iraq.
Obama, Hagel and Reed Tuesday morning traveled to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and met with Sunni leaders of the so-called “Sunni Awakening” in which tribes took up arms against al Qaeda.
This completed a whirlwind tour of Iraq during which Obama, Hagel and Reed met in Basra with Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, Commander Multinational Corps – Iraq; Major General Barney White-Spunner (UK), Commander, Multinational Division Southeast; and Major General Abdul Aziz, Commander, 14th Iraqi Army Division.
That’s in addition to meeting with US troops in Baghdad, the three senators met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; President Jalal Talabani; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi; Vice President Adil Abdulmahdi; U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker; General David Petraeus, Commander, MNF Iraq; and the doctors, nurses and patients at the 86th Combat Support Hospital.
On Tuesday the three senators will arrive at a joint military-civilian airfield outside of Amman at roughly 2:30 pm local time, or 7:30 am ET. They will be greeted by chargé d’affaires Daniel Rubinstein, as U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan David Hale is not present.
Obama will stop briefly in the Royal Squadron VIP area and then proceed to his hotel.
Then: on to the mountain.
The scenic vista atop the mountain will offer pretty pictures for Obama’s first official campaign-organized event of the trip, a press conference about his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hagel and Reed will be there as well. And after their tour of the ancient Citadel, where excavations have uncovered relics from the Roman through early Islamic ages.
The three senators will explain today their view that there is emerging a strong consensus on a few points including that:
- Iraqis want “an aspirational timeline,” with a clear date, for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq;
- violence is down significantly because of the surge, more effective Iraqi security forces, the “Sunni Awakening,” and the Shii’a militias’ cease-fire; and
- political progress, reconciliation and economic development continue to lag.
After the press conference and an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric, Obama will have a private 30-minute one-on-one meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The only other person in the room will be Air Force Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jonathan S. Gration, who will take notes. Obama and King Abdullah have met before on Capitol Hill and have spoken on the phone, but this will be their first one-on-one meeting.
An Obama senior policy adviser notes of this meeting and all others: “there is one president at a time. Senator Obama is not here to make policy or negotiate but to have a very useful exchange.”
The campaign advises that King Abdullah was not originally scheduled to be in Amman at the time of Obama’s visit but that he has “bent over backwards to make this event happen and attend.” Abdullah left Denver, Colo. at 2:30 am Jordanian time to fly back for the meeting and dinner.
It is anticipated that some of the issues the two will discuss will be the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, regional stability issues, and the influx of Iraqi refugees spilling over the border into Jordan.
Following their meeting, King Abdullah will host a dinner for Sens. Obama, Hagel, and Reed, as well as Gen. Gration and chargé d’affaires Rubinstein.
Members of the Royal Court present will include His Majesty King Abdullah and Queen Rania, Chief of the royal court, Dr. Bassem Awadallah; His Royal Highness Lt. Gen. Prince Fesial; the Jordanian Ambassador to the US, His Highness Prince Seid Ra’ad; and Director of the General Intelligence Lt. Gen. Mohammad Dhahabi.
Hagel and Reed will break off in Jordan and Sen. Obama will continue on to Israel Tuesday evening. He will meet on Wednesday morning with Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barack and then Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu. He will then visit the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, after which he will meet with President Shimon Peres.
He will then travel by car to Ramallah, in the West Bank, where he will meet with President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Dr Salam Fayyad.
That will be followed by a helicopter ride to a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipora Malka "Tzipi" Livni, likely at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by an interview with ABC News’ Charles Gibson at Sedirot. In the evening Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Weeks ago, speaking in Washington, DC, before the pro-Israel Jewish group AIPAC, Obama said that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
It now seems clear that at the time Obama didn’t understand what the notion of an “undivided Jerusalem” meant to the AIPAC members in the room, or to President Abbas, or to most people with a depth of knowledge about the conflict. The term connotes an unwillingness to accept a future peace agreement that allows Palestinians control over East Jerusalem, which became part of Israel after the Six Day War in 1967.
Obama has since backtracked from that declaration and the spin to explain what he meant was repeated today by one of his senior policy advisers, who said, “He’s repeatedly said that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be negotiated by the parties, that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital but it should not again be divided with barbed wire and check points like it was from 1948-1967.”
The adviser acknowledged Obama’s AIPAC speech did not have “optimal phrasing” and should have included the notion of “barbed wire and check points.”
At some point during this busy day, we’re told Obama would like to squeeze in a visit to the Wailing Wall.
On Thursday, Sen. Obama will fly to Berlin, Germany, where he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. He will also give an interview to NBC’s Brian Williams.
In the evening he will deliver a speech at Siegessäule at the Großer Stern in Tiergarten Park, aka the Victory Column erected by the Germans after their success in the Prussian-Danish War in 1864 (and moved to its current location by the Nazis.)
The campaign reiterated this morning that the Berlin speech will be a “substantive speech, not a campaign rally, on American-European relations, it is not a political speech.”
But when pressed, the campaign would not say whether it had hired its own camera crew for use of the footage of Obama’s speech in future TV ads.
Oui, nous pouvons?
On Friday, Sen. Obama and entourage will fly to Paris, France, where he will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France is the one democracy in the campaign swing of this trip where Obama will not meet with the leader of the opposition, which the campaign says was just a matter of time constraints, though it could be observed that by the end of this trip Sen. Obama will have managed to fit time into his schedule to give six interviews to the three broadcast networks in less than a week.
Friday evening, Sen. Obama will fly to London, starting the day with a breakfast meeting with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a one-time leader far more popular outside his own country than within it, a dynamic Sen. Obama will try to avoid. Obama’s campaign advises that a large part of his discussion with Blair will be about the energy crisis and global energy challenge.
That will be followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, and one with David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party. Obama will tape an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw to air on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
Then it’s back to Chicago.
– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller