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Obama’s Iraqi Accounting Oversight

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly conducted a sit-down interview with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that is airing in four installments. (Parts three and four of the interview will air tonight and tomorrow night.)

The first segment was broadcast Thursday, and we noticed an accounting error on Obama’s part. When speaking about how much the U.S. is spending in Iraq, Obama added, “They’ve got $79 billion,” alluding to Iraq’s financial deposits and budget surplus. But that’s false.

There was a time when the country could have had as much as $79 billion by the end of the year, but that time has passed. What the Iraqis actually “have” is $29.4 billion in the bank. The Government Accountability Office projected in August that Iraq’s 2008 budget surplus could range anywhere from $38.2 billion to $50.3 billion, depending on oil revenue, price and volume. Then, in early August, the Iraqi legislature passed a $21 billion supplemental spending bill, which was omitted from the GAO’s surplus tally since it was still under consideration. The supplemental will be completely funded by this year’s surplus. So the range of what the Iraqi’s could have at year’s end is actually $47 billion to $59 billion. The $79 billion figure is outdated and false.

Update, Oct. 13: According to GAO, Iraq was unable to spend its entire budget in 2005, 2006 and 2007. If the Iraqi government doesn’t spend its entire supplemental budget this year, Iraq’s surplus could still end up at around $79 billion. See our post at The FactCheck Wire for more details.