John McCain took some time off of the campaign trail and hit the ground in Iraq this morning. The media calls it a “surprise visit”, but he had given indications that he would visit Iraq after he clinched the nomination in order to get a fresh assessment of the progress being made by General David Petraeus and the troops. He intends to meet with Iraqi leadership, who might get a glimpse of the McCain temper for their foot-dragging on reconciliation:
Republican presidential candidatearrived in on Sunday to assess improved security attributed to a build-up of 30,000 extra troops of which he has been a strong supporter.
McCain arrived in Baghdad and was due to meet Iraqi government leaders and U.S. officials in the heavily fortified “Green Zone” diplomatic and government compound, U.S. embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said. …
Attacks across Iraq have fallen by 60 percent since last June, when extra troops were fully deployed. There has been a fall in violence since January but U.S. commanders in Iraq say this does not represent a trend.
McCain’s visit will have at least one salutary effect — it will force news agencies to cover the drop in violence in Iraq yet again. As the news has gotten better from the effort, it has also become more rare and less prominently placed. For a day or two, newspapers will include the improvements seen from the surge, which McCain had demanded for three years before its eventual implementation.
Iraqi leaders have met with McCain before, but not as a presidential nominee. That may give McCain a little more leverage with Nouri al-Maliki and the other political leaders in the Iraqi central government. Before now, McCain’s criticisms of the Iraqi leadership had been moderated by his status as just another American legislator, albeit one with more clout than some of the other drop-in visitors to the Green Zone. Now that McCain may be the best friend they have left in the upcoming presidential election, they may take his suggestions on speeding up reconciliation efforts closer to heart.
Another point that the American media might make is that this is McCain’s eighth trip to Iraq. He has visited in bad times and while improvements were being made. How many trips has Barack Obama made to Iraq? How many meetings has he had with Iraqi leadership?