Iraq patrol 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Barack Obama may say change is coming, but many Iraqis aren't counting on an immediate shift in US policy toward their country when the Democrat takes office as US president.
At the same time, Iraqi officials recognize the new president-elect's perspective on the war in Iraq differs greatly from current US President George W. Bush.
"We don't expect any change to happen overnight or any hasty change in US policy and commitment toward Iraq," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Al-Arabiyah TV moments after Obama claimed victory over Republican John McCain.
But he acknowledged that Obama "will not have the same enthusiasm and momentum for this situation" in Iraq as Bush.
Obama opposed the Iraq invasion of 2003 and has called for a complete withdrawal of combat troops within 16 months. But Zebari said the situation on the ground may dictate his moves as president.
The foreign minister said Obama told Iraqi leaders earlier this year during meetings in Baghdad and Washington that "he would not take any hasty decisions ... and any decision that concerns Iraq would be taken after thorough discussions with the Iraqi government and field military leaders."
Iyad Jamal Aldin, a lawmaker from the Iraqiya List, agreed.
"We do not expect a big change in Obama's policy from Bush's, and he has stated before that he will not take irresponsible decisions concerning the American troops in Iraq," Jamal-Aldin told Al-Arabiya from London. "I do not expect a surprise change in American policy toward Iraq."
He said "realities on Earth will have their affect on him."
Obama's election win comes as US and Iraqi officials scramble to reach a deal on a new security agreement that would end the US military presence in the country by 2012 and give Iraqis a greater role in managing combat operations.
It remains unclear what impact the Democrat's victory will have on negotiations, but Jamal-Aldin doesn't expect it "will speed up the signing of the pact."
"Iran will make use of the new situation in America and Obama's election to negotiate with Americans about the situation in the Mideast and the regions that Iran have influence in, like Iraq and Lebanon," he said.
Iraqis opposed to the US military presence hailed Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential election.
The country has nearly as big a stake in Tuesday's presidential contest as Americans since Obama will face tough decisions on how to draw down US forces without sacrificing security gains and vital American interests in the Middle East.