The statement by an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling his remarks in Der Spiegel "misinterpreted and mistranslated" followed a call to the prime minister's office from U.S. government officials in Iraq.
Maliki had expressed support for a withdrawal plan similar to that of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in an interview with Der Speigel. U.S. troops should leave Iraq "As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned," Maliki had said. "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."
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.
Yesterday, Kevin Drum revealed how shaken the White House was by al-Maliki’s statement. How absolutely predictable that someone would get on the horn and tug al-Maliki's strings, like they've done every time the prime minister tries to show some disapproval of White House policy toward their supposedly "sovereign" country.
I’m remembering this comment on a Kleinheider thread from Nashville blogger Bob Krumm, currently serving in Iraq:
I am not in “occupied Iraq.” I am stationed in Iraq. It is its own sovereign nation. Were it not, there would be no need for the Status of Forces Agreement currently so much in the news.
Right. I'm sure it helps to keep telling yourself that, but I have to wonder how "sovereign" a country is that gets its hands slapped every time the prime minister or parliament tries to assert Iraq’s sovereignty.
Al-Maliki owes his position to the Bush Administration, but it’s obvious he wants U.S. troops out of his country; even spinmasters like Joke Line have gotten the message:
In short, what Maliki is saying is: Please leave, as soon as possible. He may be saying this for local, political reasons, in the runup to the regional Iraqi elections, but he's saying it.
Yes, he’s been saying that, over and over. Meanwhile, President Bush has his heart set on 58 permanent military bases in Iraq. That’s not an occupation?
The Bush Administration has been pushing the so-called “sovereign” Iraq government around on everything, from ending our troop presence to oil contracts to permanent military bases (ooops, I mean "permanent duty stations”) in that country. Al-Maliki has such a tenuous hold on power over there that the tiniest push from Bush will see him toppled and replaced with someone more to our liking.
It’s just really sad to see this puppet theater play out.