Iraq’s Maliki Supports Obama’s Withdrawal Position

July 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Posted in American politics | 17 Comments

…and more importantly, shows the difference between Obama and McCain. Republicans are trying their best to say there is no difference between Obama and McCain. This is the only way they can save their candidate from the total wipeout that will happen come November, to make McCain look no different than Obama on foreign policy. This will make it easier to show the differences domestically, where they think they can label Obama as a socialist (which is the current Republican talking point on Obama).

But alas, there is a stark difference between John McCain and Barack Obama when it comes to Iraq. John McCain wishes for us to remain in Iraq. Barack Obama wishes for us to leave Iraq. And in an interview for Der Spiegel, Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Barack Obama, saying:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says U.S. troops should leave Iraq “as soon as possible,” according to a magazine report, and he called presidential candidate Barack Obama’s suggestion of 16 months “the right timeframe for a withdrawal.”

In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine released Saturday, al-Maliki said he was not seeking to endorse Obama. The Illinois senator and likely Democratic nominee has pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months if he is elected.

“That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying. “Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems.”

Asked when U.S. forces would leave Iraq, he responded, “As soon as possible, as far a we’re concerned.”

How much clearer can you be? Marc Ambinder has more:

This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what’s left to argue? to argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren’t equivalent to Iraq’s, but… Malik isn’t listening to the generals on the ground…but the “hasn’t been to Iraq” line doesn’t work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

Here is what John McCain has said in the past

One hundred years.

Maybe ten thousand years!

Maybe one million years!!!

Let it be clear the choice we have this November. A President Barack Obama will do what he can to work with the Iraqis to have Americans leave their country within 16 months (or so). I’m not going to be upset if we still have troops after 16 months. The point is that Obama will work at having us leave.

A President John McCain will continue Bush’s policy to have us own Iraq for the foreseeable future. The choice is simple, really.

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  1. McCain responds by saying:

    “His [Maliki’s] domestic politics require him to be for us getting out,” said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The military says ‘conditions based’ and Maliki said ‘conditions based’ yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.”

    Huh? Voters care a great deal as to what Iraqi leaders say. If they want us out, well that means we should leave. Right, Mr. McCain?

    Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is going to have some trouble worming away from this 2004 Council on Foreign Relations transcript. In it, McCain is asked, “What would or should we do if, in the post-June 30th period, a so-called sovereign Iraqi government asks us to leave, even if we are unhappy about the security situation there?” He answered:

    Well, if that scenario evolves than I think it’s obvious that we would have to leave because — if it was an elected government of Iraq, and we’ve been asked to leave other places in the world. If it were an extremist government then I think we would have other challenges, but I don’t see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people.”

    Indeed, Mr. McCain. Looks like it is time to leave Iraq.

  2. (CNN) — A German magazine quoted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as saying that he backed a proposal by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months.

    “U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months,” he said in an interview with Der Spiegel that was released Saturday. “That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” he said.

    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.

    “Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic,” al-Maliki said.

    Must be some improvements.

    The interview’s publication came one day after the White House said President Bush and al-Maliki had agreed to include a “general time horizon” in talks about reducing American combat forces and transferring Iraqi security control across the country.

    In a statement issued Friday after a conversation between Bush and al-Maliki by closed-circuit television, the White House said that conditions in Iraq would dictate the pace of the negotiations and not “an arbitrary date for withdrawal.”

    The two menagreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal,” the White House said.

    In an interview to air Sunday on “Late Edition,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “those goals are being achieved now, as we speak. And so, it’s not at all unusual to start to think that there is a horizon out there, in the not too distant future, in which the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. forces are going to change dramatically and those of the Iraqi forces are going to become dominant.”

    White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said al-Maliki had made it clear that such decisions will be based on continuing positive developments.

    “It is our shared view that should the recent security gains continue, we will be able to meet our joint aspirational time horizons,” he said.

    The Democratic candidate (Obama) says he supports a phased withdrawal of troops, promising to remove all combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of taking office if he becomes president.

    McCain does not think American troops should return to the United States until Iraqi forces are capable of maintaining a safe, democratic state. (see White House statement as well)

    He has been a strong advocate of the 2007 “surge” to escalate U.S. troop levels and says troops should stay in Iraq as long as needed.(echoing the recent agreements)

    It may be time- has the Surge been successful then? -In Iraqis experience?

  3. once again parroting the Republican talking point. Good work Mr. Democrat. Did you even know that that statement, that “retraction” was given through CENTCOM? You really are an idiot. Now, if you call yourself a Democrat, then act like one, otherwise switch back to the Republican you really represent.

  4. So which part is untrue?

  5. This part:

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

    Who is the spokesman? Why is it anonymous? Why was it released through CENTCOM and not through Maliki’s office? Which parts were “misunderstood?” Which parts were “mistranslated?” Which parts were “not conveyed accurately?” Interestingly, this CENTCOM-backed anonymous Maliki spokesman would not say. Hmmm…..

    The rest of it is all spin by the White House. But alas, they just simply cannot spin the fact that Maliki not only supported withdrawal of American troops within a 16 month time frame, but called it out by Obama’s name!

    Sorry dude, but you are once again siding with the wrong people. If you truly are a democrat (which you continue to show you are not), then you would do all in your power to bring Bush to justice, not support his position.

    Go away.

  6. Aww, and look at this, that CENTCOM-backed anonymous Maliki spokesman only talked after the White House leaned on them.

    But after the Spiegel interview was published and began generating headlines Saturday, officials at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad contacted Maliki’s office to express concern and seek clarification on the remarks, according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

    Later in the day, a Maliki aide released a statement saying the remarks had been misinterpreted, though without citing specific comments.

    So I ask, nasamomdele, why can’t you just accept that Maliki’s words are accurate and that he believes Obama’s plan is best for Iraq? Because you are a Republican. Because you support Mr. 28%. Because you are dumb. Now go away.

  7. The New York Times adds:

    Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Mr. Maliki’s advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine’s rendering of the interview.

    The statement, which was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday, said Mr. Maliki’s words had been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” but it failed to cite specifics.

    “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.”

    Seems like Maliki’s statement was quite accurate, and the White House is trying to muddle and confuse rather than make clearer the point. See, Maliki is not a team player, so the White House has to cover for him to stay on message. The message being that there should be no “timetable.” Silly silly men. Stupid people run our country and run the world right now, nasamomdele. Silly, dumb bastards. Why do you support them?

    Go away.

  8. What an utter, complete and total snub of the Bush administration.

    It couldn’t happen to a nicer group of incompetents.

    Is it January 2009 yet?

  9. And look at this, that same spokesman is now on record as saying that he hopes to see Americans out of Iraq by 2010.

    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.”

    Huh. Looks like Iraqis want what Obama wants. And more importantly, McCain doesn’t want what Iraqis want. As I quoted McCain earlier, in my first comment, this is what McCain thinks:

    Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.”

    McCain doesn’t care what the Iraqi leaders want. Obama does. The Iraqi leaders want us out of Iraq. Obama wants us out of Iraq. McCain does not.

    nasamomdele, the fake Democrat, supports McCain and Bush. Go away dude. Go back to the Republicans.

  10. Ezra Klein adds

    It’s not similar. It’s identical. January 2009, plus 16 months, puts you in May 2010. As Spencer writes, “There’s nowhere left for McCain to go here. Either he endorses a timetable for withdrawal, which he has consistently said would be a disaster, and cedes his only big issue to Obama — and more importantly, concedes that Obama’s judgment is sound — or he deliberately ignores the concerted, expressed wishes of the Iraqi government in order to prolong an unpopular war.”

    From watching the cable shows this morning, the McCain campaign’s spin is that this just proves McCain was right about the surge, and Obama was wrong. It doesn’t prove that, but even if it did, it doesn’t help McCain. Because it also proves that in the central Iraq question of this election, Obama was right and McCain was wrong. The McCain camp is left arguing that their candidate was the right guy for the job in 2005, while Obama is better suited to lead America’s Iraq policy in 2009. Past vs. future indeed.

  11. You didn’t get my comments, Dan.

    Iraqis and American military leaders alike go by “marked improvements”. The fact that one candidate wants 16 months (more or less, according to al Maliki- sounds like a plausible horzon) and another can’t seem to come to a reasonable horizon is not the issue. Both would draw down troops only to send them into another war in Afghanistan.

    The argument is that by these reports, and all others, the Surge has produced good results. No one denies that except you and Obama, for now. I hope he will come out and give the troops and commanders credit for great work after this visit (he doesn’t have to throw a bone to Bush). The job is getting done, now let’s get troops home. Get more NATO to go to Afghanistan and keep our boys home.

    Obama can say he was wrong about the surge and win over a huge chunk of the middle-right and not look bad at all. Those are just the facts that he’d be acknowledging. Then he can say whatever he wants about timelines, because the time has come to get troops home. Campaign promises are one thing. I hope troops get out sooner than even he says, but I defer to the commanders and Iraqis, not the commander-in-chief.

    My posted article was not to discredit your posted article, rather the opposite. Of course Iraqis want troops out. The sooner the better. That’s not my point. My point is that there are improvements that facilitate Iraqis talking like this.

  12. Oh yes, I did get your comments. The “Surge” did not succeed no matter how many times you say it. The level of violence in Iraq in June is about the same as it was in January 2005, or about 500 dead from political violence for the month. That’s terrible. There is no political reconciliation. No matter how many times you say it, it is still not true.

    Sunnis turned on Al-Qaeda in September 2006, six months before the Surge began! Al-Sadr called a truce with his militia not because of the Surge. Most Iraqis living in mixed neighborhoods have already been displaced. They are out in no man’s lands refugee camps. Or in Syria. Walls keep apart the rest of the residents of Baghdad.

    But still, more than 500 civilians die monthly due to political violence. Sorry, but the Surge is not successful.

    I will give credit to Maliki and to Petraeus for attempting to give the new (and still very very weak) military some muscle, and their attempts at giving the government the monopoly on violence within the country. However, those goals, while a part of the Surge, were always a part of the plan to begin with, and not exclusively a part of the Surge.

    I’m glad you are finally saying what Obama and I have been saying, that it is time to “get troops home,” as you say. But that is not, I repeat NOT John McCain’s position. And to say it is is to play into the Republican talking point, to attempt to make no difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. The more Republicans can paint John McCain as no different than Barack Obama on Iraq, the more they can stress the differences domestically where they are trying to portray Obama as a socialist (an evil word in American politics). You are playing the Republican strategy, nasamomdele. Why do you do this?

    I hope troops get out sooner than even he says, but I defer to the commanders and Iraqis, not the commander-in-chief.

    Huh, I would prefer to defer to the commander in chief. After all, that’s what we hire him for. Furthermore, the commanders in the battlefield do not see the bigger political picture, and as such should not be trusted with such decisions that affect what they cannot control.

    You should really be disturbed that you advocate abrogating the Constitutional responsibility of the commander in chief to a regional commander.

  13. The unhinged radical right is now throwing Maliki under the bus for not staying on message. They finally focus on his ties to Iran (which they mysteriously never talked about earlier when he was “their man”.) What a bunch of idiots! Is this who you side with nasamomdele? Stupid people like Andrew McCarthy?

    Why don’t you get it?

  14. And just so that it is clear, the White House is against setting a time period in which to withdraw the troops.

  15. Right wing nuts continue to show their true colors:

    We should tell Maliki, loudly and in public, that he owes his job to us, and that further prosecution of our military operations in his country will be conducted with regard only to U.S. interests, as determined in consensus by our established domestic political processes. And if he doesn’t like that, he can go to hell.

    Yeah, that’ll do it.

  16. nasamomdele says there are no differences between Obama, Bush and McCain on Iraq. If that is truly the case, then why would the White House (which backs McCain) be so upset at Maliki endorsing Obama’s plan? If there is no difference between Obama’s plan and Bush’s plan and McCain’s plan, would not the White House welcome Maliki’s endorsement of the Obama plan (which according to nasamomdele is the same plan as Bush and McCain)?

    Or, in the real world, is it not true that there is a massive fundamental difference between Obama and McCain and Bush? Obama wants us to leave Iraq. Bush and McCain want us to stay. It is truly that simple.

    It is saddening that so many Americans still are so dumb as to not be able to comprehend such elementary deduction!

  17. Let me add one more point on the abrogation of the Constitutional responsibility of the commander in chief to a regional commander, if I may.

    Why would a commander in chief abrogate this responsibility to a regional commander? Why would he put the burden of this mantle on a regional commander? Why, for one reason only. If the situation were to go sour, it would be the regional commander that gets the boot, gets thrown under the bus, gets the axe, and NOT the commander in chief.

    There never is more cowardice than a commander in chief not willing to take the fall, and letting a subordinate take the fall in his place. What utter cowardice! That is the true nature of George W. Bush. That is the true nature of John McCain today. It is really sad, because John McCain was a hero in the past. He is not one anymore. He wants to be a coward and let someone underneath him take the fall for the decision he ultimately should be making. Shame on you!


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