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.