Barack Obama taken to task for Pakistan threat
* US respects Pakistan’s sovereignty: White House
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama’s broadside against Pakistan and his threat to strike terrorist targets in the tribal areas if President Pervez Musharraf does not, has been criticised by several leading figures, including some of his rivals for the Democratic party presidential nomination.
However, the Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton did not respond. Phil Singer, a spokesman, said the campaign had no response to Obama’s speech.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told newsmen, “Our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government.”
Sen Joseph Biden, who is also running for president, said Obama’s proposal clearly shows his inexperience. “It’s not something you talk about,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”
Sen Christopher Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, used stronger words. “Frankly, I am not sure what Barack is calling for in his speech this morning. But it is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power,” he said.
Sen James H Webb Jr, Virginia Democrat, called the Sulaiman mountain range on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border a rugged and treacherous place and did not blame the Bush administration for being cautious. John Edwards, now at No 3 in the Democratic presidential bid, said he would first apply “maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia” to do their utmost to combat the spread of terrorism. He also challenged both Obama and Clinton to block a proposed US arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Some were supportive of Obama, including Lee Hamilton, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, who said, “His challenge to Musharraf to get rid of those sanctuaries is an important one, and I happen to be very sympathetic to that point of view. We have to take out these sanctuaries, and if (Gen Musharraf) doesn’t, we must,” he said.
New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, also a Democratic presidential candidate, was in agreement with Obama, saying that his approach towards Pakistan correct. “We need to reverse the Bush-Cheney policy of appeasement and make sure Musharraf knows his deal with the terrorists is completely unacceptable to the US.”
Obama also said in his Wednesday morning speech at the Woodrow Wilson Centre here, “As president, I will lead this effort,” he said. “In the first 100 days of my administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle.” He also renewed his call to double the amount of foreign aid to $50 billion by 2012 and to provide $2 billion to fight the influence of Islamic madrassas, which he said “have filled young minds with messages of hate”.