Biden gets new role in Iraq policy

Vice President Joe Biden has a new assignment: overseeing US policy on Iraq.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed Tuesday that President Obama had asked Biden to begin "working with General [Raymond] Odierno and Ambassador [Christopher] Hill in working with the Iraqis toward overcoming their political differences and achieving the type of reconciliation that we all understand has yet to fully take place.”

A deep foreign affairs background

Before becoming vice president, Biden had served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Given his knowledge of the region, the number of times he has been there, he is perfectly suited for this type of role,” Gibbs said at Tuesday's White House briefing.

The new assignment appears to be a signal of solid relationship between the garrulous vice president and his more contained boss.

In brief comments on Iraq at a White House event on service organizations Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Obama referred to the withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraqi cities. “Iraq’s future is in the hands of its own people,” Obama said. While noting the celebrations in Iraq triggered by US troops leaving major cities, Obama said “There’s more work to be done, but we have made important progress in supporting a sovereign, stable Iraq.”

More progress needed

The White House has been worried about a recent uptick in violence in the region. Gibbs said that in giving Biden his new assignment, “What we want to ensure happens is that as we reach these milestones and these important dates, that we do not forget that work has to be done to get our troops back and to achieve that political reconciliation. This is somebody who can oversee that at the White House and ensure we are making continued progress.”

In addition to his role in US policy toward Iraq, Biden heads up the administration’s Middle Class Task Force and is spearheading oversight of the Recovery Act.

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