Scenarios: Who is the audience for Obama’s Iraq speech?

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama will deliver a speech on Tuesday to highlight what administration officials say is his fulfillment of a campaign promise to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq by August 31.

The address, his second from the White House Oval Office, will be nationally televised to U.S. primetime viewers, but Obama will be speaking to a range of listeners around the world.

Here are some of the audiences and what he might say to each of them:

* U.S. public — Obama will contend that he is a leader who keeps promises, not just on Iraq but also to refocus American military resources on Afghanistan. He will underscore his appreciation for the sacrifices of the troops who have waged the 7 1/2 year-long war.

Many American voters may not be paying much attention. With two months to go before the November 2 congressional elections, analysts say a war-weary public is far more focused on the sputtering economy and persistently high unemployment than Iraq or even Afghanistan.

* The political audience — Good news on Iraq can be a distraction from discouraging news from Afghanistan, already the longest war in U.S. history, where violence has reached record levels despite nine years of fighting.

As the United States grapples with record budget deficits, Obama could also make the point that the drawdown in Iraq frees up financial resources for other things.

“The president will put this into a bigger context of what this drawdown means for our national security efforts both in Afghanistan and … throughout the world as we take the fight directly to al Qaeda, as well as the priorities that we have and must address here at home,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday.

* Iraqis – U.S. officials are working to assure Iraqis that Americans are not abandoning them. Vice President Joe Biden flew to Iraq on Monday to make that point and meet with Iraqi leaders, who have failed to form a new government, almost six months after elections.

Obama is likely to say that the United States will help as it can, and support Iraq in case of external threats, but stress that the Iraqis will now be responsible for their own security.

“We will be their ally, but the responsibility of charting the future of Iraq first and foremost belongs to — to the Iraqis,” Gibbs said.

* The Muslim world – The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, 1 1/2 years into the war in Afghanistan, contributed to concerns among some Muslims that the United States was seeking to become a new imperialist in the Islamic world.

Obama eased those concerns by reaching out to the Muslim world early in his term, but his ratings have dropped since, as the wars have continued, with little progress in Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts.

“It (the speech) just gives him another opportunity to drive home this message, which is an important message particularly in a region where it’s very hard to get an American message across, that we don’t have imperial designs on Muslim-majority countries,” said Stephen Grand, an expert on U.S. relations with the Islamic world at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

However, that audience has largely moved beyond Iraq, and is more focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the Mideast peace process.

Obama is hosting the first Israel-Palestinian peace talks in 20 months in Washington this week, with the leaders arriving on Wednesday, the day after his Iraq speech.

* Other U.S. allies – Analysts said that if Obama addresses U.S. allies at all, he will call on them to help rebuild the Iraqi state.

Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said Obama could say to allies: “It’s time for you to do more. If Iraq becomes unstable or a haven for terrorists, it’s not just us, everybody in the region — and the Europeans — are going to suffer.”

(Editing by David Alexander and Eric Walsh)

Scenarios: Who is the audience for Obama’s Iraq speech?