Tag Archives: Timeline

Turns Out, Maliki Said It Afterall

So, after the Maliki government, through the occupation authority, tried to claim “mistranslation” on his Obama/timeline comments, it turns out they were full of shit. Not only was the translator for the interview Maliki’s, but the New York Times has gotten the audio and confirmed Maliki’s comments.

“Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate,” Mr. Dabbagh said Sunday by telephone. “I have the recording of the voice of Mr. Maliki. We even listened to the translation.”

But the interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Mr. Maliki’s interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Mr. Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Mr. Obama’s position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.

The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”

He continued: “Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

So, just to be clear. Comment as originally reported in Der Spiegel and as translated by Maliki’s guy:

U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

Comment as translated by the Times:

“Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”

Not exactly the same, but the ideas are. Unsurprisingly, both the White House and McCain’s camp are full of shit on this. McCain put all of his eggs in the mistranslation/misunderstanding basket.

In an interview, Scheunemann dismissed the idea that events abroad had shifted the debate in ways that favor Obama. He also said McCain stood be his 2004 remarks, and that “if the sovereign Iraqi government wants our troops out, our troops will leave. They have not said that.”

Maliki’s comments to der Spiegel were only “inartful,” Scheunemann said.

“If they’re going to go after inartful statements, we can have that debate,” he quipped, noting Obama’s past equivocations on such issues as the Washington, D.C., gun ban and status of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

This is now a long way from “inartful statements.” Maliki brought Obama up and said that “he who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.” That doesn’t seem inartful, unless your definition of inartful is “saying something that hurts us.” That seems like Maliki knew what he was doing and said it anyways.

A White House spokesman, quoted in the Times piece, claimed that

Scott M. Stanzel, a White House spokesman with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., said that embassy officials explained to the Iraqis how the interview in Der Spiegel was being interpreted, given that it came just a day after the two governments announced an agreement over American troops.

“The Iraqis were not aware and wanted to correct it,” he said.

That bullshit spin is directly contradicted by an AP article from yesterday

Confusion over the Iraqi prime minister’s seeming endorsement of Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad’s strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America’s military mission.

The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there.

It also is designed to refurbish the nationalist credentials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his political survival to the steadfast support of President Bush. Now, an increasingly confident Iraqi government seems to be undermining long-standing White House policies on Iraq.

. . .

“Let’s squeeze them,” al-Maliki told his advisers, who related the conversation to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The squeeze came July 7, when al-Maliki announced in Abu Dhabi that Iraq wanted the base deal to include some kind of timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. The prime minister also proposed a short-term interim memorandum of agreement rather than the more formal status of forces agreement the two sides had been negotiating.

Hmmmm . . . It seems Maliki knows exactly what he is doing. Contrary to any idiot who thinks this thing may “help McCain” (?!?!?!?!?!), it sure seems like Maliki has just given Barack Obama a gigantic helping hand.

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Maliki Backs Off?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office is backing off his endorsement of Barack Obama’s Iraq timeline yesterday.

Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, issued a statement saying Mr. Maliki’s statement had been “as not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq,” but it did not address a specific error. It did soften his support for Mr. Obama’s plan and implied a more tentative approach to withdrawing troops. More of the statement, which came from the U.S. military’s Central Command press office:

Al-Dabbagh explained that Mr. al-Maliki confirmed the existence of an Iraqi vision stems from the reality with regard to Iraq security needs, as the positive developments of the security situation and the improvement witnessed in Iraqi cities makes the subject of U.S. forces’ withdrawal within prospects, horizons and timetables agreed upon and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground, and security that came within the Strategic Plan for Cooperation which was laid and developed by Mr. Maliki and President George Bush. The Iraqi government appreciates and values the efforts of all the friends who continue to support and supporting Iraqi security forces.

Al-Dabbagh underscored that the statements made by the head of the ministerial council (Prime Minister al-Maliki) or any of the members of the Iraqi government should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.

As Matt Yglesias notes, this is hardly convincing

You can read the full statement at the link, but this summary really tells you what you need to know, namely that the walkback (a) doesn’t involve Maliki on the record, (b) says the reports are inaccurate but doesn’t name inaccuracies, and (c) was issued through CENTCOM. Basically, this morning we saw Maliki speaking in person and endorsing Obama’s plan to end the occupation in no uncertain terms. By the late afternoon, an Iraqi government spokesman was pretending this never happened in a statement released by the occupying army. That’s hardly even a serious effort at bamboozlement.

Also, unsurprisingly, der Spiegel stands by their interview and its translation. Plus, it is awfully hard to believe that Maliki didn’t mean what he said about Obama given that elsewhere in the same interview he said

SPIEGEL: Germany, after World War II, was also liberated from a tyrant by a US-led coalition. That was 63 years ago, and today there are still American military bases and soldiers in Germany. How do you feel about this model?

Maliki: Iraq can learn from Germany’s experiences, but the situation is not truly comparable. Back then Germany waged a war that changed the world. Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops — and it should be short. At the same time, we would like to see the establishment of a long-term strategic treaty with the United States, which would govern the basic aspects of our economic and cultural relations. However, I wish to re-emphasize that our security agreement should remain in effect in the short term.

That sounds a lot like Obama, and nothing like McCain. Let’s see, what else did Maliki have to say?

SPIEGEL: How short-term? Are you hoping for a new agreement before the end of the Bush administration?

Maliki: So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn’t the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias. The American lead negotiators realize this now, and that’s why I expect to see an agreement taking shape even before the end of President Bush’s term in office. With these negotiations, we will start the whole thing over again, on a clearer, better basis, because the first proposals were unacceptable to us.

Hmmm…Again, doesn’t sound much like McCain.

Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. But it’s the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that’s where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.

Granted, that was after being asked if he was endorsing Obama, but again, that does not sound like McCain. Plus, the fact that al-Maliki didn’t immediately back off his endorsement of Obama’s policy, and in fact reiterated his support for a quicker withdrawal, makes it hard to believe that Maliki really was misquoted.

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McCain Chooses Empire

Just last week, John McCain’s advisers were saying:

“John McCain has always been clear that American forces operate in Iraq only with the consent of that country’s democratically elected government,” Michael Goldfarb, a McCain spokesman, told the Huffington Post.

Now, after Maliki’s bombshell that he agrees with Barack Obama, McCain has this to say:

“His domestic politics require him to be for us getting out,” said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The military says ‘conditions based’ and Maliki said ‘conditions based’ yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.”

Leaving aside the obvious idiocy of claiming that Maliki’s statement was only for domestic political consumption (But as an aside, why would Maliki say this to a German newspaper if it were only to placate domestic politics? I have a feeling Der Spiegel isn’t all that well read in Iraq.), this is McCain’s camp saying that the American military occupation matters more as to what we do in Iraq than the supposedly sovereign government. Sure, we could continue to occupy Iraq if we really wanted to, it’s not as though the Iraqi army could kick us out. But staying there because American military generals want to, over the objections of the local government, is just imperialism. There really is no other way to put it.

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Maliki Embraces Obama

“U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

John McCain is suddenly is a very tough position. In the campaign thus far he has taken two positions on Iraq. One, that a timeline such as that proposed by Barack Obama would be “setting a date certain for surrender,” and secondly, that if the Iraqi’s ask us to leave we will. Now, McCain is in the impossible position of having to either admit that he envisions the US in Iraq as a long-term, imperial force, staying on in defiance of the local population and sovereign government of Iraq, or embracing the withdrawal timeline that Obama layed out 18 months ago, at the beginning of the campaign, a postion that McCain has characterized as “wanting to lose.”

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