Iraqi Government Acting Like Real Government

 REUTERS  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he agrees with US presidential candidate Barack Obama\'s plans for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. The Iraqi government is claiming Der Spiegel mistranslated earlier reports that they were supporting a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.  The magazine stands by its story.

Ali al-Dabbagh, the chief spokesman for al-Maliki, said in a statement Sunday that the prime minister’s comments were “not conveyed accurately” by Der Spiegel.   Al-Dabbagh said al-Maliki did not endorse a specific timetable but instead discussed “an Iraqi vision” of U.S. troop withdrawals based on negotiations with Washington and “in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground.” He added that Maliki’s comments has been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” without detailing which parts were affected.

This has prompted AP Baghdad bureau chief Robert Reid to respond with an analysis piece under the headline “Iraq Playing US Politics for Best Deal.”

The Iraqi prime minister’s seeming endorsement of Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad’s strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America’s military mission. The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there.

It also is designed to refurbish the nationalist credentials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his political survival to the steadfast support of President Bush. Now, an increasingly confident Iraqi government seems to be undermining long-standing White House policies on Iraq.

[…]

With Obama due to visit Iraq soon, al-Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh was quick to discredit the report, saying the prime minister’s remarks were “not conveyed accurately.” A top al-Maliki adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, insisted the Iraqi government does not intend to be “part of the electoral campaign in the United States.”But that is precisely what the Iraqis intended to do: exploit Obama’s position on the war to force the Bush administration into accepting concessions considered unthinkable a few months ago.

Well, yeah.  Which is precisely how governments everywhere act.  Indeed, this would appear to be a sign that Maliki and company are more ready for prime time than it had appeared.

Photo:  Reuters

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Davebo says:

    ndeed, this would appear to be a sign that Maliki and company are more ready for prime time than it had appeared.

    At this rate, within a few years the Prime Minister will issue his walk back press releases from Baghdad instead of Tampa Florida!

  2. Hal says:

    James, did you miss this piece in the NY Times this morning?

    “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.”

    Emphasis mine.

    Puts a rather different light on the incident.

  3. Michael says:

    Indeed, this would appear to be a sign that Maliki and company are more ready for prime time than it had appeared.

    Great, can we bring them home now?

  4. Triumph says:

    The Iraqi government is claiming Der Spiegel mistranslated earlier reports that they were supporting a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

    What the hell are you talking about? al-Dabbagh’s initial “claim” was issued by the US CENTCOM. In open press questioning this morning, al-Dabbagh endorsed getting US troops out in 16 months.

  5. Hal says:

    was issued by the US CENTCOM

    Kind of puts a whole new spin on “Which is precisely how governments everywhere act”.