President Obama made an unannounced visit to Iraq Tuesday.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, met Obama shortly after Air Force One landed in Baghdad about 4:42 p.m. local time (9:42 a.m. ET). Obama chose to visit Iraq rather than Afghanistan because of its proximity to Turkey, which Obama just visited, said Robert Gibbs, the president’s spokesman. In addition, Obama wanted to discuss Iraq’s political situation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, Gibbs said. Mostly, however, the stop is about Obama visiting troops, he said. Obama will meet with Odierno and with members of the U.S. military in Iraq. He will participate in the awarding of 10 medals of valor, Gibbs said.
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“Our men and women who are in harm’s way, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserve our utmost respect and appreciation,” Gibbs reportedly told reporters traveling on Air Force One. During the campaign season, Obama visited Iraq on a multistop overseas trip. That trip also included stops in Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. He also visited Iraq as a senator in 2006. Obama’s stop in Iraq came at the conclusion of his first overseas trip as president. Turkey was the last scheduled stop on the president’s tour abroad. There, he held a joint news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and addressed the Turkish parliament. Obama’s trip to Turkey was his first presidential visit to a Muslim country. Watch more on Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world » Obama arrived in Europe last week for a series of summits. He first met with world leaders at the G-20 summit in London to discuss the global financial crisis. At the NATO summit in France and Germany, the president was hoping to get a boost in resources for the war in Afghanistan. He did get allies to pledge about 5,000 troops, but in the form of police and security trainers, not combat troops.
In Prague, Czech Republic, at the European Union summit, Obama delivered a speech about nuclear nonproliferation to more than 20,000 people, a boisterous crowd reminiscent of the campaign. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 79 percent of Americans surveyed feel that Obama has had a “more positive” effect on how people in other countries view the United States. Only 19 percent of those surveyed thought he’s had a “more negative” effect.