Obama: Maliki wants a "time frame" with "some flexibility"

I mentioned this in an update to last night’s post but it warrants fuller attention. Here’s the vid:

We already knew before the Spiegel interview that the Iraqis wanted a “time horizon,” something aspirational but apparently largely dependent on the security situation. Then the Spiegel interview dropped and it sounded like Maliki was moving away from that and towards something more binding: 16 months, with a tiny bit of wiggle room perhaps for Obama-esque “tactical readjustments.” Now here’s Obama on Nightline, characterizing Maliki’s position per their discussion yesterday in a way that sounds to me more like that amorphous aspirational pre-Spiegel plan than a (basically) fixed timetable. The statement Obama released after the meeting even used the word “aspirational” to describe it, albeit while also insisting that Maliki wants a “clear date.” I can’t tell anymore if these semantic distinctions signify conceptual distinctions or if it’s to-may-to/to-mah-to, but my sense is that the Bush-endorsed “time horizon” is more conditions-dependent than the Obama timetable-with-readjustments. Where Maliki falls on that continuum — or the Iraqi Sunni leadership, which seems to favor a McCain readiness standard instead of a timetable — at this point is unclear to me, at least.

Pretty clear where Petraeus falls, though. From Obama’s presser in Jordan this morning: