There’s quite a few doing the schoolyard “na na nanaaa naaaaaa” here on FA INRE Maliki’s recent statements about withdrawal, misconstruing it as some sort of preference for Obama as the next US POTUS, as well as interpreting it as some sort of slap in the face to the Bush admin.
And, as usual, that conclusion was reached by reading western media headlines – designed for just that aim to our sound byte educated nation.
So just what did Maliki say, and how did it morph to some twisted version of an Obama endorsement? For that, we go first to the Spiegel Online Int’l interview with Maliki.
INRE the troops withdrawal schedule:
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.
SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?
Maliki: 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. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. 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.
Under the Bush admin, leaving troops in combat positions in Iraq beyond the point of necessity was never on the table. Withdrawal has always been the plan when the Iraqis could secure and defend their new government. And certainly no one wanted to lollygag the withdrawal process, once implemented.
That time to withdraw is now within view, and the withdrawal will go forth – as originally planned – under any POTUS that governs the next term. The time frame differences will be what the US troops leave behind in their schedule in order to do so more quickly, and what happens in the wake of the withdrawal. Or, as Maliki said: “…with the possibility of slight changes.”
Based on events and the redeployment specifics of the US military and assets, Maliki recognizes this schedule may involve changes to accommodate. The common goal is that both US and Iraq would like troops gone as soon a feasible. And Maliki’s concerns are what is good for Iraq… not American poll opinions, nor insuring that Obama’s campaign promises are honored.
Because Germany was also liberated from a tyrant in WWI by the US and allied forces, Spiegel noted the similarities between Iraq and Germany, and asked Maliki how he felt about US presence after the country was self-sufficient. This, of course, leads into the still-under-negotiations SOFA agreements that are also a point of contention in FA debates.
SPIEGEL: Germany, after World War II, was also liberated from a tyrant by a US-led coalition. That was 63 years ago, and today there are still American military bases and soldiers in Germany. How do you feel about this model?
Maliki: Iraq can learn from Germany’s experiences, but the situation is not truly comparable. Back then Germany waged a war that changed the world. Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops — and it should be short. At the same time, we would like to see the establishment of a long-term strategic treaty with the United States, which would govern the basic aspects of our economic and cultural relations. However, I wish to re-emphasize that our security agreement should remain in effect in the short term.
SPIEGEL: How short-term? Are you hoping for a new agreement before the end of the Bush administration?
Maliki: 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. The American lead negotiators realize this now, and that’s why I expect to see an agreement taking shape even before the end of President Bush’s term in office. With these negotiations, we will start the whole thing over again, on a clearer, better basis, because the first proposals were unacceptable to us.
Prior to the Iraqi government expressing enough confidence it it’s progress to support a withdrawal these past few weeks, premature withdrawal would result in a defeat. As Maliki points out, the status of the Iraqi forces and Assembly today makes any withdrawal agreement a victory… again, a recent development by the govt’s attitude.
Maliki then ticks off the SOFA issues… stating that immunity for troops was one problem, but also length of troops stay, their authority while on Iraqi soil, and how much control they have over who comes and goes.
I’m on record as stating that if a SOFA does not allow for adequate protection of our troops, and a reasonable power to conduct operations that support their purpose for being there, then frankly… let’s go home and leave it to the Iraqis to sort it out themselves. Thus if we never have a SOFA or temporary bases in Iraq that is befitting our risk for being there, I shan’t be unhappy. My only concern is that a free Arab democracy flourishes in Iraq: that they can stem the tides of the global Islamic jihad movement and be a partner in intel.
When it comes to the much debated withdrawal, and the insistance of progressives that Obama was right all along, Maliki himself – while describing just how he copes with such pressure daily – points what a difference Iraq today is from just months ago.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, your job is probably one of the most dangerous a politician can have. How do you cope with this, and what do you do to make it bearable?
Maliki: I lead a very simple life — one that is shaped by external forces, which is apparently what fate has determined for us Iraqis. In that regard, the past few decades of dictatorship have not changed all that much. What keeps me going? The constant exertion of my job — and the successes we are now having. It means a lot to me to see how much closer we are today to a democratic Iraq, one that respects human rights, than we were only a few months ago.
Asked what Maliki believes has contributed to Iraq’s progress:
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.
Sans the Obama-opposed Surge, bringing needed security to Iraq, Maliki’s “political rapprochement” could never have happened. Had the US followed Obama’s worn cry of “withdraw” last year, Iraq’s security forces would not have the progress in which Maliki expresses such pride. And, had Iraq never happened, alienating the Muslims with their brutal warfare, the Awakening Council in Iraq, and the world’s disenchantment of jihad would not have occurred.
And apparently, I am not the lone ranger on this long held belief that the Iraq war was a major contributor to their decline in popularity and the increasing animonsity towards jihad by Muslims (pointed out in my June post). Evidently Ralph Peters in the NY Post also noted the positive effects on this turn against jihad by Muslims yesterday (and a big H/T to Greg Dittman from another thread for this link)
“The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity,” Obama wrote today in a New York Times op-ed. “We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.”
Of course the reality Obama chooses to ignore is that his “long advocated” plan was the wrong plan until events dictated its possibility only in the recent weeks.
Oddly enuf, even Obama recognizes that it’s been the policy of both the Bush admin, and McCain, to withdraw at the request of the Iraqi government.
“My core position, which is that we need a timetable for withdraw … is now a position that is held by the Iraqi government itself,” he told reporters on his campaign plane Saturday night. “…John McCain and George Bush both said that if Iraq as a sovereign government stated that it was time for us to start withdrawing our troops they would respect the wishes of that sovereign government.”
Now that Iraq sees it’s way clear to taking over the reins of security, Obama claims to have been “right” all along? What chutzpah…. and more frightening is that the agenda driven media is perpetuating this lie with all means in it’s power.
Reality is, it’s only in the past month – with Iraq’s notable progress – that the Iraq government has spoken openly for the first time about withdrawal. When the Iraq government was *not* asking for withdrawal and instead depended on US aid this past year, Bush and McCain agreed, and were right. By contrast, Obama- still parroting the withdrawal mantra – was wrong.
But then, even a broken clock is right at least once or twice a day – depending upon whether it’s a 24 hour/AM-PM read out. But as leader of the free world, we cannot afford a broken clock Commander in Chief who is wrong 23+ hours the rest of the day.
UPDATE: There are news stories that Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraqi govt spokesperson, contests the Spiegel translation of Maliki’s words.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not endorsed any specific timeframe for possible U.S. troops withdrawals, a government spokesman said Sunday.
The statement by Ali al-Dabbagh came after an article was published by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine which quoted al-Maliki as favoring the 16-month withdrawal window proposed by Barack Obama.~~~
Al-Dabbagh said al-Maliki’s views were “misunderstood and mistranslated” by Der Spiegel and that the prime minister backs a general vision of pulling out U.S. combat forces based on talks with Washington “and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground.”
Al-Dabbagh said statements by al-Maliki or any members of the Iraqi government “should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.”
Frankly, I never interpreted even a “mistranslation” any other way but that they want to start a withdrawal, but keep a close eye on events on the ground as it goes on. But evidently Al-Dabbagh is determined to reign in the agenda-driven western press.
It was only a couple days ago that CNN ran the news of the US-Iraq “time horizon” agreement.
(CNN) — President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have agreed to include a “general time horizon” for meeting goals such as reducing U.S. combat forces and transferring Iraqi security control across the country, the White House said Friday.
The two men “agreed 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 a statement.
The discussion follows a drop in violence in Iraq, improvements in the performance of the Iraqi security forces, and subsequent calls from Iraqis for the United States to formulate a troop withdrawal timetable.
Logic dictates that any withdrawal must be flexible. And does Obama’s plan offer that flexibility? If so, he differs not one iota from either Bush, or McCain.
UPDATE #2 July 21st 2008, from NYT’s “Iraqi Premier Steps Back on US Troops Comment”
Obviously, straightening out the revisionist western media is a regular problem:
Administration officials expressed confidence on Sunday that Mr. Maliki did not intend to create a rift with Mr. Bush on the issue of withdrawals, saying that both leaders conditioned any troop pullout on improved security in Iraq and would not impose a rigid timetable.
But a senior military official in Iraq said top American commanders expressed surprise and confusion over Mr. Maliki’s published remarks. The official added, however, that no American officers spoke to the Iraqi prime minister or any of his top aides about them.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened with the prime minister,” said the senior military official, noting that Mr. Maliki or his top aides had had to issue clarifications previously of comments that Iraqi or foreign journalists reported the prime minister said. “All of us were going, ‘What? What did he say, why did he say it and was it accurate?’ ”
Of the most controversial paragraph in the translation, the NYT’s had an in house translater come up with the below as their version of the interview from an audio tape:
“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.”
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.
As I’ve said before, pre election political posturing is a constant for Muslim leaders that risk being viewed as an American puppet.
But the Times doesn’t want to give up a pro-Obama slant easily. Despite the clarification from both Maliki’s spokesman, and their own translation from the audio tape that merely confirms 16 months, sans any problems, could work out well, they insist to leave an impression that Maliki prefers Obama by saying:
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.
Nice try, Times. Facts still remain the same. The time is finally ripe for a withdrawal… no thanks to Obama and ilk.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.