Exclusive: Former Iraqi PM Allawi To Testify To Congress Wednesday

Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Bill Delahunt tells the Huffington Post that next Wednesday, his Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hear testimony from former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Speaking on Saturday after news broke that Iraq's current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, appears to have endorsed Barack Obama's 16-month time frame for withdrawing from Iraq, Delahunt said "it will be interesting to hear [Allawi's] view."

Delahunt said the subcommittee will also hear from pollster Steven Kull, who is prepared to testify that 60 percent [see correction below] of Iraqi citizens would like to see a full U.S. withdrawal within the next six months.

"Clearly there is movement now in Iraq," Delahunt said. "It would appear that pressure is building to listen to what the Iraqi people are demanding, at least according to all of the polls that I've seen. ... Maybe democracy is working in Iraq. This is positive."

In an interview published Saturday in the German daily Der Spiegel, Prime Minister al-Maliki responded to a question about when U.S. troops should begin to withdraw from his country by saying: "As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

While al-Maliki stopped short of making any political endorsement of Obama, Delahunt said that the citation of Obama's name and his oft-repeated 16-month figure was clearly a "signal" from the prime minister. "Now we just have to put that number down on paper, and create the conditions for a responsible and reasonable withdrawal," he said. "My position is that there should be a set timetable with clear standards, clear benchmarks that are not subject to interpretation. But I think we have to welcome that statement by al-Maliki."

Delahunt said Obama could take some satisfaction from this latest news, as well as that of the Bush administration's decision to send a top diplomat to a meeting in Switzerland between other world powers and Iran's nuclear negotiator Saturday. "I'm sure Senator Obama would be pleased that the current administration is adopting his ideas and his foreign policy approaches," Delahunt said with a chuckle. "It's too good!"

Correction: The article originally referred to a poll that Rep. Delahunt said showed that 78 percent of Iraqis wanted a withdrawal of U.S. troops within six months. The poll actually says 60 percent of Iraqis hold that view.