Australia's prime minister: Al-Qaeda 'prays' Obama, Dems win; Obama spokesman dismisses 'cowboy rhetoric'
Published: Sunday February 11, 2007
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(Update: Obama lashes back at 'Bush ally's bunch of empty rhetoric')

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has involved himself in the US presidential race by stating that Al-Qaeda is "praying" that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), and the Democrats in general, will win in 2008. An Obama spokesman dismissed the criticism as "cowboy rhetoric."

Howard has been a staunch supporter of President Bush's war in Iraq, and has faced tremendous criticism in his homeland for his unwavering stance.

"Mr Howard's stinging attack against the popular Democrat, who formally launched his bid for the Democratic candidacy overnight, also appears to commit Australian troops to staying in Iraq well into 2008," an Australian news agency reports. "Only days after saying Australia's alliance with the US was about more than his personal friendship with US President George W Bush, Mr Howard warned that an Obama victory would be a boost for the terrorists."

"I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for (an) Obama victory," Howard said. "If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

The Associated Press reports that there's already "been a quick reaction from the Obama campaign."

"A spokesman called the Australian leader's comments, 'cowboy rhetoric,'" according to the AP article. "He said the U.S. has sacrificed thousands of lives and billions of dollars, only to become mired in the middle of a civil war."

Obama: 'Bunch of empty rhetoric'

"US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has blasted as 'empty rhetoric' Australian Prime Minister John Howard's attack on Obama's plan to bring US troops home from Iraq," the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Excerpts from article:


The 45-year-old senator waded into a major foreign policy row just one day after formally announcing his candidacy, telling Mr Howard he should dispatch 20,000 Australians to Iraq if he wanted to back up his comments.

"I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced," Mr Obama told reporters in the mid-western US state of Iowa.

"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is ... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."