16 month timetable the right policy

The Prime Minister of Iraq agrees with Obama’s timetable for a U.S. withdrawal:

When asked in an interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, [Prime Minister] Maliki responded “as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned.” He then continued: “US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.” …

Iraq, Maliki went on to say, “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.” He also emphasized though that the security agreement between the two countries should only “remain in effect in the short term.”

Democrats circulate an interview McCain gave in 2004:

QUESTION: Let me give you a hypothetical, senator. 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? I understand it’s a hypothetical, but it’s at least possible.

McCAIN: Well, if that scenario evolves, then 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.

Marc Ambinder comments,

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. …

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, “We’re fucked.”)

Meanwhile, President Bush is now open to “a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals — such as … the further reduction of U.S. combat forces in Iraq.”

Uh … that would be a “timetable for withdrawal” that dare not speak its name.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 08:41:16

    “The Prime Minister of Iraq agrees with Obama’s timetable for a U.S. withdrawal:

    “US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.” …”

    The only problem with this is that (a) Spiegel has been stealth-editing it’s own coverage. The original version of their article showed that the ellipsis above hides a rather important qualifier (from here)-

    “…As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.”

    (my emphasis) This is presumably the “wiggle room” or “fudge factor” that Marc-not-at-all-in-Obama’s-pocket-Ambinder is explicitly denying even exists.

    and (b) Maliki has denied he said anything so explicit and has claimed that he has been mistranslated. See here for a detailed account of Maliki’s protest. BTW, just in case anybody is tempted to claim that Maliki has changed his story following pressure from the Bush administration, please note that the key phrase of the protest (“Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements”) is fully consistent with the original version reported in Der Spiegel before it was amended.

    It’s almost off-topic, but you would be disappointed in me if I didn’t point out here that the “positive developments” being referred to are the results of a policy that John McCain was almost alone in advocating and which Obama bitterly opposed and consistently predicted would end in failure (until this too went down the memory hole anyway).

    Oh one final, somewhat snarky, thought – is the Nouri al-Maliki being praised here as the go-to guy on Iraq policy any relation to the Nouri al-Maliki that the Left has spent the last few years denouncing as a stooge of the Bush administration or the Iranians? It’s amazing what saying something that can be interpreted as an endorsement of the Golden Child can do for your image!


  2. Random
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 08:42:25

    Bah – *another* smiley malfunction! I work better with preview enabled, honest…


  3. Stephen
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 11:14:14

    First, let me insist that Marc Ambinder is not in Obama’s pocket. Naturally, I tend to quote him when I agree with his point. But you should read Ambinder’s blog for a while before you make assertions about him. On this issue, he has published McCain’s position without editorial comment on at least a couple of occasions.

    Anyway, here’s today’s Talking Points Memo:

    First, any question of mistranslation or misunderstanding is put to rest [by a New York Times article]. The interpreter was al Maliki’s, not Der Spiegel’s. And Der Spiegel provided the Times with a tape recording of the interview, which was then independently translated and confirmed the accuracy of the original Der Spiegel account.

    And yes, the White House pressured Maliki to walk back his statement. That was to be expected. In fact, Josh Marshall predicted that Maliki would walk back the remarks after pressure from the White House.

    If the timetable is contingent “on the continuance of security improvements,” I don’t have a problem with that. And Obama doesn’t, either. He has consistently said, including during the Democratic primary, that the USA should be as smart getting out as they were stupid getting into Iraq.

    That necessarily means adapting to events on the ground. But it’s still clear that Obama wants American troops out, with a goal of having most of the troops out within sixteen months. Whereas McCain wants a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. That’s a significant policy difference.

    And McCain’s position is obviously in conflict with al Maliki’s position, as Ambinder and any other neutral observer can plainly see.

    McCain wants to claim that Obama is inexperienced and not up to the job. Particularly with respect to foreign policy. Funny, then, that he has had to reverse course in Obama’s direction repeatedly. As has the Bush Administration.

    First North Korea, then Iran, then Afghanistan. And now Iraq. That’s a lot of foreign policy calls that Obama has gotten right, where McCain is in the embarrassing position of echoing him.


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