Maliki: Obama’s 16-month timetable sounds good; Update: Spiegel changes quote

posted at 12:15 pm on July 19, 2008 by Allahpundit

Here’s the exchange from Spiegel’s English translation, duly hyped by Reuters as tacit evidence of Liberal Jesus’s foreign-policy sagacity.

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack 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.

The unasked follow-up question: How about the 14-month timetable that Obama wanted to set in January 2007 to start pulling troops out before those positive developments could occur? How keen does that look in hindsight? To repeat a point made yesterday, the only reason a timetable or “time horizon” is arguably a responsible strategy now is because it was properly rejected as being irresponsible then. Maliki hints at that in another part of the interview:

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.

Exactly, which at least partly explains why Bush is more willing to compromise now on some sort of informal schedule. Compare Maliki’s justification for the timetable to Obama’s justification in his big Iraq speech. The pacification of the country is almost incidental, something to congratulate Petraeus on and then quickly move past. To the extent conditions in Iraq seem to affect his rationale at all, he offers this: “In the 18 months since the surge began, as I warned at the outset – Iraq’s leaders have not made the political progress that was the purpose of the surge. They have not invested tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues to rebuild their country. They have not resolved their differences or shaped a new political compact.” I.e. it didn’t work, so let’s get out. Back to Maliki for a rebuttal:

SPIEGEL: In your opinion, which factor has contributed most to bringing calm to the situation in the country?

Maliki: There are many factors, but I see them in the following order. First, there is the political rapprochement we have managed to achieve in central Iraq. This has enabled us, above all, to pull the plug on al-Qaida. Second, there is the progress being made by our security forces. Third, there is the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias. Finally, of course, there is the economic recovery.

He’s exaggerating the extent of the reconciliation, but not entirely.

One more quote from the interview which I dare say won’t be making it into the inevitable Team Barry press release. The fact that Maliki thinks the war was good for Iraqis doesn’t mean it was good for America, needless to say, but Obama fans eager to exploit the timetable bit may want to mull this before baptizing his judgments with Absolute Moral Authority:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, the war and its consequences have cost more than 100,000 lives and caused great suffering in your country. Saddam Hussein and his regime are now part of the past. Was all of this worth the price?

Maliki: The casualties have been and continue to be enormous. But anyone who was familiar with the dictator’s nature and his intentions knows what could have been in store for us instead of this war. Saddam waged wars against Iran and Kuwait, and against Iraqis in the north and south of his own country, wars in which hundreds of thousands died. And he was capable of instigating even more wars. Yes, the casualties are great, but I see our struggle as an enormous effort to avoid other such wars in the future.

For context, here’s Petraeus on MSNBC yesterday afternoon (before the Spiegel interview was published) responding to reports that Maliki wants a timetable. He fudges a bit with the “time horizon” terminology, but note well the point about domestic politics and assertions of sovereignty. Another “positive development.” Exit question: What do we do now with that NYT piece from the other day about Iraqis who love Obama for bringing Hope but pray that the U.S. security presence doesn’t Change?

Update: Spend some time with this AP story about U.S. troops — who would have been reduced to a small Baker/Hamilton token force by now if Obama had had his way last year — helping Iraqi villagers rebuild after purging Al Qaeda. Quote: “It reveals how drastically American troops have shifted their focus from combat to helping Iraqis build on a newfound, if fragile, peace. And it reflects a continuing concern among U.S. commanders that the security gains could slip.” Not just among U.S. commanders, per the NYT piece.

Update: A commenter notes that Spiegel has rewritten the translation of the exchange about withdrawal to read as follows. There’s nothing in the article calling attention to the change; they’re trying to put one over on their readers, it seems.

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. 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.

They’ve dropped the contingency about positive developments continuing, although it’s still implied by the part about potentially changing the plan. Did Maliki contact Spiegel and ask them to drop that part so that the quote would sound more assertive back home? Hard to believe the original translation would have been so off as to include a bit about “positive developments” that he never said.


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lol for now indeed!

Bfunky292 on July 19, 2008 at 5:36 PM

Never forget that those of us who supported this war in the beginning and in the darkest hours were right.

right? right about what? which of the right wing nuts predictions before the war started were you agreeing with? get back to me on that. I am sure we can surely cite about 100 quotes from the likes of many of the wing nuts before the war which were wrong from day 1 until the present day.

withdrawal, timetable = defeat … which part of that quote are you “flip flopping” on now?

Monkei on July 19, 2008 at 5:41 PM

Obama has obviously read Alice in Wonderland and is taking the position of the Queen.

“Policy first. Questions later.”

drjohn on July 19, 2008 at 5:46 PM

But getting back to AP’s point … what was the motivation behind the changes in the wording in the online edition from Maliki first saying that 16 months would be doable assuming the positive developments continue to the second version of Maliki saying that 16 months would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

My guess is that since the translation is left up to interpretation and that gives you so much wiggle room that the person responsible for the online version intentionally made the changes to make it appear that Maliki agrees with Obama on a timeline for withdrawal without taking conditions on the ground into consideration, as Obama makes his way to Germany.

And only an uninformed nitwit who has not been paying attention to Iraq for the last almost 2 years now would believe that Maliki would agree to an arbitrary (total) withdrawal of US forces (and that is what Obama advocates TOTAL) regardless of Iraq’s ability to maintain their internal security and international boundaries.

Texas Gal on July 19, 2008 at 6:06 PM

I just think that attention ought to be paid to Lebanon as a warning of the best that can be expected out of Iraq with an American withdrawal. Throw in the oil fields, the large percentage of shiites, the physical link from Iran to Syria, Turkey’s interest in the North … and you’ve got a lot of fun in store with an American exit, no matter how it looks now.

Our most trustworthy allies in Iraq have been the Kurds and they have almost never been taken into account by any Democrat I’ve ever heard speak. Many of the Sunnis think that they can win a post-US Iraq since they’ve done it before, while so do the Shiites. It’s the Kurds who can see the sledgehammer really coming down on their heads if the US goes, and they are some of the only people there that showed us any real support.

I’d love to hear someone ask BHO about the Kurds and how they figure into his Iraq strategy.

progressoverpeace on July 19, 2008 at 6:09 PM

Thanks for the update on the translation. The lefties are freaking out on this, extrapolating all the way to the death of President Bush after a war crimes conviction, for example, Spencer Ackerman:

The Iraq war is and has always been an obscenity, a filthy lie born of avarice and lust for power masquerading as virtue. This is what imperialism looks like. But the age of empire is over. The same hubris that led Bush into the Iraq disaster led him to miscalculate, again and again, over how to entrench it. But now he is impotent, unable to impose his will, and the nakedness of his attempted imposition has led the American and the Iraqi peoples to wake up and end his nightmare. May his war-crimes prosecutor be Iraqi; may his judge be American; and may he die in the Hague.”

God these people are horrible.

http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/epitaph-for-imperialism-or-death-of.html

Donald Douglas on July 19, 2008 at 6:22 PM

Monkei on July 19, 2008 at 5:41 PM

Here we go again. You seem to forget all the left wing nuts that were drooling about going after Saddam – and before you throw out that garbage about “Bush lied”, keep in mind that the rhetoric was going on way before Bush came into office (not to mention that the Intelligence Committee was privy to the same intelligence that the “lying” Bushitler had). Further, the only flip floppers were the Dems in Congress, like your boy JFKerry (“I was for it before I was against it”), Hillary, and yes, everyone’s favorite progressive John Pony-Boy Edwards.

Lastly, you are clueless regarding the withdrawal timetable discussion. As AP mentions above, your beloved Dems wanted to get out when things were ugly in Iraq, no matter the consequences. They refused to acknowledge that the Surge would work, refused to acknowledge it was working, and have just now started to acknowledge its results – only because they had no choice (otherwise, they’d look even stupider than they already are).

Rick on July 19, 2008 at 6:27 PM

Perhaps Iraq has calmed down because of withdrawal talk, Rick?

That and the promise of an Obama Presidency soon.

alphie on July 19, 2008 at 6:43 PM

Obama has obviously read Alice in Wonderland and is taking the position of the Queen.

“Policy first. Questions later.”

drjohn on July 19, 2008 at 5:46 PM

And as for McCain, he seems to be taking the position of the Mad Hatter.

“No wonder I’m late. Why, my watch is exactly two months slow.”

MB4 on July 19, 2008 at 6:44 PM

Yes, when the war started about 70% supported it. And that was not just because Bush supposedly lied to them, it was because Saddam Hussein was a mass murdering terrorist supporting dictator who had been jacking the world around for more than a decade.

No doubt the paper changed the wording and ran the story just so the lefties would do their thing and act stupid.

But Maliki did not say the war was a crime, far from it. He said it saved Iraqis from Saddam.

I wonder if they will have to change this quote like they did the one the BBC screwed up.

In truth I think most people, including George Bush would like to be able to safely bring American troops home. There is no reason, other than a sense of necessity for him to keep them there.

But sure the lefties will run with it. In spite of the fact that they hate Maliki and his government and have had nothing good to say about it.

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 6:51 PM

The possibility of a Kerry presidency did not calm things down.

I think it will be interesting to see Mr. I want to have it both ways actually run something other than his mouth.

Thus far he says whatever works at the time.

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 6:53 PM

The thing is Obama did not support the surge. It was because of the surge that the Iraqis were able to make political gains and improve security. That is why Maliki can talk about the US leaving Iraq. If Obama had his way Saddam would still be putting people in mass graves and Iraq would not have a PM to make such statements at all.

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 6:56 PM

By Nov. of this year Mr. Doppelgänger will claim that he won the Iraq war.

Entelechy on July 19, 2008 at 7:07 PM

Perhaps Iraq has calmed down because of withdrawal talk, Rick?

That and the promise of an Obama Presidency soon.

alphie on July 19, 2008 at 6:43 PM

You’re right. The Surge had nothing to do with it. In fact, our military played no part. The Iraqis got scared straight when they heard that we were talking about withdrawing, and the jihadis began to run for the border. Moreover, “the promise” of Obama has instilled a new confidence in the Iraqis and an overwhelming sense of fear in the jihadis.

Man, that guy is good – he’ll get my vote now. Thanks for showing me the way, alphie. Can’t wait to pay $8/gal for gas. Let the good times roll.

Rick on July 19, 2008 at 7:08 PM

Sure, the threat of us leaving just scared Al-Qaeda to death.

They just ran away.

There’s a clip of Zawahiri wetting his pants over the thought of it.

SteveMG on July 19, 2008 at 7:10 PM

Perhaps Iraq has calmed down because of withdrawal talk, Rick?

That and the promise of an Obama Presidency soon.

alphie on July 19, 2008 at 6:43 PM

alphie, contrary to your assumptions, by Nov. the terrorists will have increased their attacks in Iraq and in Afghanistan, perhaps even here. They, contrary again to assumptions, do not want an Obama presidency. They exist to kill us. Period.

Entelechy on July 19, 2008 at 7:10 PM

Maliki is declaring victory. He may be a little premature, but he has confidence. Personally, I think 16mo. is very optimistic.

bnelson44 on July 19, 2008 at 7:17 PM

This “surge” will never work. It will work in Afghanistan, however.

2Tru2Tru on July 19, 2008 at 7:18 PM

McCain claimed victory a day or two ago. And Obama does not want to bring everyone home anyway. Last I heard he was talking about a 40,000 man strike force to stay in Iraq.

My guess is Maliki thinks the whole timetable thing is politics anyway.

The only reason the US has not supported a date certain for withdrawal was fear on giving the enemy notice, but if the enemy has flown the coop or been destroyed then in the end the actual date for withdrawal might not be so different.

It is all about perception.

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 7:52 PM

Phooey!!! Iraq is not ready to look after itself and won’t be in 16 months either. I, for one, no longer care since they insist on being their own worst enemies. In less than a year they will be over run from within and without by terrorists and right wing Muslim clerics—and good enough for them. Used to be in favor of staying but have now decided that all that cash is better spent in this country.

jeanie on July 19, 2008 at 8:04 PM

jeanie on July 19, 2008 at 8:04 PM

Because you know more than the Prime Minister of Iraq.

Nonfactor on July 19, 2008 at 8:26 PM

Used to be in favor of staying but have now decided that all that cash is better spent in this country.

jeanie on July 19, 2008 at 8:04 PM

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
- Charles Mackay

MB4 on July 19, 2008 at 8:38 PM

As my comment seems to be in modearation, I’ll note without a link that CNN is reporting that al-Maliki’s spokesman is claiming his remarks “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”

Karl on July 19, 2008 at 9:13 PM

The truth is there is no way of knowing if Maliki even knows what Obama’s plan is. Who does? He might have done the same thing with him that he did with the Canadians on NAFTA. Wink wink nudge nudge don’t believe the propaganda, just appeasing the masses. Or he might think that American time lines are like Iraqi time lines and a lot more flexible than Americans would want.

But there is a lot of time before the election, so I suppose there will be more of this kind of stuff between now and then.

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 9:14 PM

Karl:

Ah, that sounds familiar. First the BBC and now the Germans. What is it with the European’s Arabic translators?

Terrye on July 19, 2008 at 9:15 PM

Karl had it right, read up, you too Nonfactor

But a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.

In the magazine interview, Al-Maliki said his remarks did not indicate that he was endorsing Obama over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.

“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,” he said.

Entelechy on July 19, 2008 at 9:38 PM

CNN is playing games too.

If you go to CNN.com, the second from the top right item is titled “Iraqi PM reportedly backs Obama’s plan”, then you click on that link and the article is titled

“Iraqi PM disputes report on withdrawal plan”.

Ah, the ‘objective’ media. Screw them.

Entelechy on July 19, 2008 at 9:46 PM

Check it out please and do not give that Obama punk any slack for squirming. He is an overly ambitious and shameless
Marxist bastard.

Ban me on that.

old trooper on July 19, 2008 at 9:52 PM

old trooper, why would anyone think of banning you on that.

+1, in support of you.

Thanks for your service too. You are our betters, and you can say anything you want. You fought so we can do the same.

Entelechy on July 20, 2008 at 12:48 AM

Obama and McCain blur their battle lines
The two rivals are in danger of agreeing

Something very strange and a little unnerving is happening in American politics on the question of foreign policy. Everyone seems to be agreeing with one another, while adamantly refusing to admit it.

Look a little closer, though, and the differences between all three blur. Take Iran: Obama has famously argued that the US should deal directly with the mullahs, negotiate the nuclear question and have talks without the precondition that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment. This was a clear and vital difference, we were told only a short time ago, between a reckless, appeasing Obama and the resolute, Churchillian Bushies.

And yet last week Bush authorised William Burns, a high-level State Department official, to attend talks with Tehran’s representatives on the Iranian nuclear question. By putting oomph behind the six-power talks with Tehran, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, moved the Bush administration clearly in the direction laid out by Obama. And when you see this in the context of the recent deal with North Korea, the difference between the second term of the Bush administration and its first couldn’t be starker.

What of Iraq? Obama’s position has long been that troops should be withdrawn expeditiously but with care, and that the US military should shift its emphasis towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, lo and behold, last week we were also told that Bush was considering accelerating the exit of Iraq troops to beef up the Afghan mission.
- Andrew Sullivan

MB4 on July 20, 2008 at 1:58 AM

I’m confused. The Der Spiegel link reports it this way:

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. 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.

Hot Air is reporting it this way:

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack 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.

Where’s a link to the quote above? Am I missing something?

Amy Proctor on July 20, 2008 at 3:33 AM

Okay, the first quote is the changed version and the Hot Air quote is the original that was tampered with, yes?

Amy Proctor on July 20, 2008 at 3:45 AM

- Andrew Sullivan

MB4 on July 20, 2008 at 1:58 AM

Obama is a genius. If he wouldn’t have come along the Bush administration would be lost, both on Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. What of North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Europe, China?

The only thing is, there will be bases in Iraq for 50 years, and I never, ever heard Obama say a peep about that.

Somehow, the redeemer of the world must find a way to back into his own plans and speeches and make that a reality, and we’re all set. The Messiah is indeed here, or the 12th Imam. World rejoice! There is so much Hope, and Change is on the way. Unity will be the result.

We’ll all sing kumbaya, happily pay way higher taxes, and die happy. I’m on board. What can go wrong?

Entelechy on July 20, 2008 at 7:41 AM

“Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media for they will steal your honor.” – Bobby McBride, Crew Chief, 128th Assault Helicopter Company, RVN 1969-1970

The press menagerie will spin every event for Obama. Because they can.

His voting record speaks for itself.

I, for one, do not need to be taxed into prosperity.

The Dem led Foreign Relations Mafia needs to read the Logan Act right now. Otherwise some charges may be made. The way it looks they will stick.

old trooper on July 20, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Seems as if the sentiment in Maliki’s government is to push for a withdrawl of U.S. forces, if this from the NY Times is any indication:

Mr. Maliki’s top political adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, declined to comment on the remarks, but spoke in general about the Iraqi position on Sunday. Part of that position, he said, comes from domestic political pressure to withdraw.

“Foreign soldiers in the middle of the most populated areas are not without their side effects,” he said. “Shouldn’t we look to an end for this unhealthy situation?”

starfleet_dude on July 21, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Monkei is apparently one of those bi-polar Kos Kiddies we get in here periodically.

Go home Kos Kiddie. I’m sure you have an American flag laying around you can burn. Then go have a latte at a nice safe suburban Starbucks next to the condo mommy and daddy bought you.

revolution on July 21, 2008 at 7:24 PM

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