The combustible mix of domestic political spin and diplomatic arm twisting has gotten even stranger in the last couple says. After Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki told the German magazine Der Spiegel that he supported a timeline for withdrawal similar to Senator Obama’s (mentioning Obama by name) the White House spin machine went into overdrive, calling in international chits.
Somehow the White House got the Iraqis to claim that they were mistranslated:
"US 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 says he agrees with US presidential candidate Barack Obama’s plans for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. "Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business," he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain’s more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: "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."
The Iraqi response to Der Spiegel intriguingly came in a press release from the US military (direct from CentCom) and quoted Iraqi government spokesperson Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh as saying that Maliki’s statement was "misunderstood and mistranslated". (Daily Kos points out that Dr. al-Dabbagh has worked closely with White House communications operations having given press conferences "from the freaking White House Conference Center Briefing Room standing next to Dana freakin’ Perino. Repeatedly." )
There’s only one problem with the White House/Iraqi damage control efforts. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post did their own translations and al-Maliki was translated correctly.
Underlining the seriousness of growing Iraqi support for a withdrawal in 2010, the Iraqi government continued to make statements about timetables and goals for 2010. For example:
"Obama is closer to Iraqi opinion on the issue of withdrawal of U.S. forces," said Ali al-Adeeb, a top official in Maliki’s Dawa party. "We don’t know him personally, but we like his opinion and his calls to set a timetable to withdraw forces."
The aforementioned Dr. al-Dabbagh — perhaps pulled between various factions — yesterday said no to timetables while continuing to reinforce the 2010 deadline:
“We cannot give any timetables or dates but the Iraqi government believes the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.” … “We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq.”
Finally, Maliki is not the only Prime Minister that Obama is meeting on his trip that seems to think that 2010 is a good deadline for the withdrawal of troops. The British press is reporting that PM Gordon Brown is "expected to pave the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by 2010."
The plot thickens and more and more the "time horizon" of 2010 seems like a politically viable deadline for the endgame of the occupation of Iraq. Voters who hope for a comprehensive plan to end the occupation, to bring all the soldiers home to their families, and at the same time rebuild Iraq can support Peace Action West’s efforts through our No Soldier Left Behind campaign.