The General met Senator Obama and the congressional delegation at Baghdad International Airport and flew them in his personal Blackhawk helicopter to the heavily fortified Green Zone, said Col Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
During the short 10 to 15 minute helicopter ride Petraeus pointed out landmarks to the senators. The flight took Obama over the predominantly Sunni neighborhoods of West Baghdad, areas where Al Qaeda once controlled, but that today are controlled by pro-U.S. neighborhood watch groups.
Obama and the other visiting senators will meet with Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker later this evening.
During the meeting Petraues “is going to provide an honest forthright assessment of the situation on the ground” and answer the senators’ questions, Boylan said.
Security has been tightened in much of Baghdad. All civilian flights into and out of Baghdad airport were delayed for hours, according to Charlie Jones, who had gone to the airport to pick up employees for his company, Information Technology Outsourcing, a U.S. contractor in Iraq.
In Baghdad neighborhoods close to the Green Zone Iraqi cars waited in long lines to get through newly erected checkpoints where Iraqi soldiers searched every vehicle.
Inside the Green Zone, however, independent contractor Shane Hopkins said the U.S. military did not seem to have bolstered security as much as they have for other visiting dignitaries.
“Normally when VIPs visit there are a lot of little things that you notice,” he said. “The cell phones stop working, the checkpoints get a lot stricter, and it really impacts the work on the bases. Compared to other politicians’ visits, we don’t even know that Obama’s here. As of now, it’s just another day at work in paradise.”