During a speech in Clinton, Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) laid out his plan to withdraw the troops from Iraq. What some Democrats might find disappointing is that Obama called for a careful and strategic withdrawal that would leave some troops in the country.

“Let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year – now. We should enter into talks with the Iraqi government to discuss the process of our drawdown. We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later. But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year,” Obama said.

Obama stressed that the combat forces could be removed, but some forces would have to stay. “We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region. We’ll continue to strike at al Qaeda in Iraq. We’ll protect our forces as they leave, and we will continue to protect U.S. diplomats and facilities. If – but only if – Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we should continue to train and equip those forces. But we will set our own direction and our own pace, and our direction must be out of Iraq. The future of our military, our foreign policy, and our national purpose cannot be hostage to the inaction of the Iraqi government.”

Obama said that Iraq needs a new constitution, and argued that the United Nations should play a central role in working out Iraq’s political problems. “The problems in Iraq are bigger than one man. Iraq needs a new Constitutional convention that would include representatives from all levels of Iraqi society – in and out of government. The United Nations should play a central role in convening and participating in this convention, which should not adjourn until a new accord on national reconciliation is reached. To reconcile, the Iraqis must also meet key political benchmarks outside of the Constitutional process, including new local elections and revising debaathification.”

He also called for an aggressive diplomatic effort with Iraq’s neighbors. “We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This effort should include all of Iraq’s neighbors, and we should also bring in the United Nations Security Council. All of us have a stake in Iraq’s stability. It’s time to make this less about what America is trying to do for Iraq, and more about what the world can do with Iraq. This compact must secure Iraq’s borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al Qaeda, and support Iraq’s unity. That means helping our Turkish and Kurdish friends reach an understanding. That means pressing Sunni states like Saudi Arabia to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, increase their financial support of reconstruction efforts, and encourage Iraqi Sunnis to reconcile with their fellow Iraqis.”

Obama also talked about how he would handle Iran. “Now is the time for tough and sustained diplomacy backed by real pressure. It’s time to rally the region and the world to our side. And it’s time to deliver a direct message to Tehran. America is a part of a community of nations. America wants peace in the region. You can give up your nuclear ambitions and support for terror and rejoin the community of nations. Or you will face further isolation, including much tighter sanctions. As we deliver this message, we will be stronger – not weaker – if we are disengaging from Iraq’s civil war.”

One of the things that separated Obama’s speech from those of other presidential candidates is that he talked about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. “There’s no military solution that can reunite a family or resettle an orphaned child. It’s time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations. The State Department says it has invested $183 million on displaced Iraqis this year — but that is not nearly enough. We can and must do more. We should up our share to at least $2 billion to support this effort; to expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries; and to ensure that Iraqis displaced inside their own country can find safe-haven.”

Obama said it that it is time for the U.S. to keep their promises to the Iraqis. “One tragic outcome of this war is that the Iraqis who stood with America – the interpreters, embassy workers, and subcontractors – are being targeted for assassination. An Iraqi named Laith who worked for an American organization told a journalist, “Sometimes I feel like we’re standing in line for a ticket, waiting to die.’ And yet our doors are shut. In April, we admitted exactly one Iraqi refugee – just one!”

”That is not how we treat our friends. That is not how we take responsibility for our own actions. That is not who we are as Americans. It’s time to at least fill the 7,000 slots that we pledged to Iraqi refugees and to be open to accepting even more Iraqis at risk. It’s also time to go to our friends and allies – and all the members of our original coalition in Iraq – to find homes for the many Iraqis who are in desperate need of asylum,” Obama continued.

He concluded, “It’s time for us to breathe again. That begins with ending this war – but it does not end there. It’s time reclaim our foreign policy. It’s time to reclaim our politics. And it’s time to lead this country – and this world – again, to a new dawn of peace and unity.” Obama speech was good, but it also contained most of the conventional thinking of the Democratic Party on the war.

I am a little surprised that someone who has been as strongly antiwar as Obama has would not advocate a total withdrawal. Obama’s position really isn’t that different from Clinton’s. It was good to hear a candidate speak about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, but I couldn’t help but think that Obama was playing it safe with this speech. I think that his campaign has been stung by the allegations of foreign policy inexperience. All in all, it was a good speech, but probably not one that will help him stand apart from Hillary Clinton.

Full Text of Obama’s Speech

Jason Easley is the politics editor at www.411mania.com/politics His column, The Political Universe appears every Tuesday and Friday.

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