Thursday, September 4, 2008
The troop surge in Iraq has been more successful than anyone could have imagined, Barack Obama conceded Thursday in his first-ever interview on FOX News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.”
As recently as July, the Democratic presidential candidate declined to rate the surge a success, but said it had helped reduce violence in the country. On Thursday, Obama acknowledged the 2007 increase in U.S. troops has benefited the Iraqi people.
“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,” Obama said while refusing to retract his initial opposition to the surge. “I’ve already said it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”
Watch Barack Obama’s interview with Bill O’Reilly at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on FOX News Channel. .
However, he added, the country has not had enough “political reconciliation” and Iraqis still have not taken responsibility for their country.
Speaking on other national security matters, Obama said he would not take military action off the table in dealing with Iran, but diplomacy and sanctions can’t be overlooked.
The Islamic republic is a “major threat” and it would be “unacceptable” for the rogue nation to develop a nuclear weapon, he said.
“It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon, it would be a game changer,” Obama said. “It’s sufficient to say I would not take military action off the table and that I will never hesitate to use our military force in order to protect the homeland and the United States’ interests.”
But Obama also warned against the current U.S. administration lumping radical Islamic groups together.
“They have fueled a whole host of terrorist organizations,” Obama said of Iran, but “we have to have the ability to distinguish between groups. … They may not all be part and parcel of the same ideology.”
Obama sat down with O’Reilly in York, Pa., after holding a discussion on the economy with voters nearby. The Illinois senator has been campaigning in battleground states since accepting the Democratic presidential nomination last Thursday at his party’s convention in Denver.
Obama said he “absolutely” believes the United States is fighting a War on Terror, with the enemy being, “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, a whole host of networks that are bent on attacking America, who have a distorted ideology, who have perverted the faith of Islam.”
He repeated his campaign’s foreign policy position that Afghanistan must become the “central front” in the War on Terror.
Obama was first asked to come on “The O’Reilly Factor” in early 2007. The interview will air in three more parts after Thursday, from Monday through Wednesday next week.