Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MALIKI AND OBAMA....This is nuts. First Nouri al-Maliki tells Der Spiegel that he thinks Barack Obama's 16-month timeline for getting out of Iraq is about right. Then his spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, tries to walk this back by claiming that Maliki's comments were mistranslated (they weren't). Now, today, Dabbagh is back, and he says Maliki likes Obama's timeline after all. From McClatchy:

After talks with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki reaffirmed that Iraq wants U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2010, a few months later than Obama had proposed.

Ali Dabbagh, the prime minister's spokesman, said Maliki and Obama didn't discuss specifics during the hour-long meeting. But he said the Iraqi government would like to see all American combat troops out of the country by the end of 2010, a bit later than Obama's proposal to draw down all combat brigades within 16 months after he'd become president.

"Barak Obama showed his support to this government," Dabbagh said. "He came to listen to our views and the views of the prime minister. And the prime minister gave him his point of view about the presence of U.S. forces and . . . what we want from the forces."

There's no walking things back this time. For better or worse, Maliki has now firmly endorsed Barack Obama's vision for the future of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Kevin Drum 10:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Maliki wants us out as soon as possible. Iraq for Iraqis and all that, but what does he know. McCain's right, we shouldn't leave until Dick Chaney and Exxon Mobil have drained all the oil even if it takes 100 years.

Of course, we could adopt Al Gore's vision and develop home grown solutions to our energy crisis, putting millions of Americans to work in the process of building something we can be proud of, but that wouldn't help the rich Republican donors from the house of Saud drain America of her remaining wealth.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 21, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

I expect to see the McCain campaign spin this as an al-Qaida backer endorsing Obama's plan for surrender in Iraq, and the US news media repeat the accusation without any acknowledgement of how stupid it is.


Posted by: phleabo on July 21, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

They're going to attack Obama for going abroad and "undermining American foreign policy".

Posted by: DonBoy on July 21, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

How much of this was actually Obama laying down the law for Maliki, telling him it's going to happen because he's going to win, so he'd be better off getting on board and appear like he's telling the Americans that it would be better to leave sooner rather than later. It can't hurt Maliki to appear to be driving a withdrawal policy that is likely to happen anyway.

And let's face it, Obama's the likely next President. He's not undermining American foreign policy, he's making it.

Posted by: Phil on July 21, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Maliki is waffling. Iraqis overwhelmingly want the US out. Maliki wants them to stay to keep him in power. So when Iraqis are listening, he talks about withdrawal. Don't expect him to be unambiguous.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 21, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

From a purely logistical standpoint, based on what commanding officers in the region have to say, sixteen months has always been impossible -- unless you intend to abandon all the equipment. 22-24 months may well be doable, though, and that sounds closer to what Maliki's endorsing.

Posted by: Shelby on July 21, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Heh, Nouri al Maliki tried to take over from Bliar as the world's premier Bush poodle, but he isn't even adroit enough not to trip all over it when he tries to slick things up. Actually I think that ultimately, Maliki has more spine than Bliar and will end up standing up for Iraqi interests.

Posted by: N. B. ♪ ♪ on July 21, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

So all this was said in Iraq where all three of the network anchors are trailing along after Obama. Love to see how they can avoid it on tonight's news. Love to see how Fox is going to try to spin this. Probably see headlines about how Maliki claims Obama's timeline too short. And if Obama states that after consulting with forces on the ground and representatives of the Iraqi government that 16 months is just not enough time and that he will still try to hold to that timeline, but will be flexible according to developments on the ground, the headlines will be "Obama flip-flops on troop redeployment!!!" Right?

Posted by: majun on July 21, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Although anti-war advocates welcome Malichi's agreement with Obama that US troops ought to leave Iraq, Malichi's endorsement does not help Obama electorally. Americans do not care for foreigners' endorsements.

Posted by: Brojo on July 21, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Iraqi Prime Ministers have a librul bias.

Posted by: Sloegin on July 21, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

After parsing sentences and translations, toing-and-froing among the campaigns and Bush and Maliki spokesmen, 16 months vs. 20 months vs. 24 months, the bottom line is: The Iraqi government wants U.S. troops out within two years. Obama wants U.S. troops out within two years. McCain does not.

No amount of counterspin will prevent that from sinking in with voters.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on July 21, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

From Politico...

The McCain campaign also stressed that they do not view Maliki’s statement to the German magazine as an official Iraqi position, and that a McCain administration would consider the view of Iraq’s government a key factor in determining America’s policy in that nation.

This is obviously correct. The official Iraqi position comes from CentCom.

Posted by: justmy2 on July 21, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting for a good scholarly opinion on the supposed Maliki phrasing given here:

Asked in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel of when he would like to see American forces leave Iraq, Maliki said: “As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned.” He then added that “Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.

What's up with the "positive developments" phrase? Any Arabic experts weigh in on that?

Posted by: Neil B. on July 21, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

For better or worse, Maliki has now firmly endorsed Barack Obama's vision for the future of U.S. troops in Iraq.
What if Obama flip flops again? Of course Iraqis are so honest and honorable we know Maliki will honor his word.

Posted by: Luther on July 21, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

You wouldn't know it from the media coverage, but I'll bet this consensus on withdrawal between Obama and Maliki is what ends the chatter about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience, plays a huge part in getting him elected in November, and may ultimately be seen as the beginning of the end of this war.

It becomes very hard after this point for McCain to claim superior foreign policy acumen while standing in the shadow of Obama's Iraq visit, and making silly/scary geography mistakes on a daily basis.

Posted by: The Lucky Sea Men on July 21, 2008 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Many years ago the new Pres Kennedy had a summit conference with Krushchev. The Russian explained that they had modulated their belligerence in such a way that they tilted that very close election for Kennedy to win.

This is what happens when one nation is locked together with another, whether in conflict or as colony and imperialists. It is the Bush policy that gives Maliki a vote in our election.

This time they voted the way most of us here like. It might not always be so. It is one peril of empire that those who you control also control you.

Pointing this out got me blackballed from the Commentary Magazine site.

Posted by: JohnMcC on July 22, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK
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