Obama to deliver speech on Iraq ahead of trip

CHICAGO (Reuters) – White House hopeful Barack Obama will outline his views on Iraq and U.S. national security in a speech Tuesday before a planned trip there, his campaign said.

“He will focus on the global strategic interests of the United States, which includes ending our misguided effort in Iraq,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

The speech in Washington comes as his Republican rival in the November presidential election, John McCain, has been accusing Obama of changing his position on Iraq.

Obama is expected to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming weeks but no dates have been disclosed for his trip because of security concerns.

The McCain campaign took aim at Obama for choosing to deliver the speech before his visit to Iraq and said it suggested the Democratic candidate “will never change course on Iraq, no matter the facts on the ground.”

“If he has no intention of listening to what American commanders in Iraq have to say, or incorporating that information into his policy, why is he even going?” Michael Goldfarb, a spokesman for McCain, wrote in a campaign blog.

McCain has criticized Obama for not visiting Iraq since 2006.

Obama, who based his drive to capture the Democratic nomination on his early and ardent opposition to the war, said this month he might refine his plan to bring combat troops home within 16 months of taking office if conditions on the ground changed.

McCain, a Vietnam War hero and an Arizona senator, has attacked Obama, a first-time Illinois senator, as too inexperienced to serve as U.S. commander in chief.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Monday, Obama reiterated the 16-month timetable for pulling out U.S. combat troops.

“We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months,” Obama said. “That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began.”

“In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments,” the Democratic candidate said, adding that he would consult with U.S. commanders on the ground to make sure the withdrawal proceeds safely and that U.S. interests are protected.

Obama also welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s call to include a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in an agreement under discussion that would set the terms for the American military presence in Iraq.

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