Update: The right wing blogosphere, along with conservative commenters here on Wizbang Blue, have been busily attempting to spin this news around, suggesting that the Iraqi government has backed away from the published reports quoting Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in support of Barack Obama's 16 month timetable. Apparently the spinmeisters at Hot Air and Drudge Report are so good, or the conservatives who are choosing to believe the spin are so gullible, that these lies are gaining traction.
Unfortunately for them the Iraqi government issued a statement Monday morning that once again supports the reports that the Iraqis are in line with Obama's plan of a 16 month timetable from when he takes office. He will assume office in January 2009, so mid-2010 marks the end of 16 months.
Iraq's government spokesman is hopeful that U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010.
Ali al-Dabbagh made the comments following a meeting in Baghdad on Monday between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day.
The timeframe is similar to Obama's proposal to pull back combat troops within 16 months. The Iraqi government has been trying to clarify its position on a possible troop withdrawal since al-Maliki was quoted in a German magazine last week saying he supported Obama's timetable.
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says it is time for President Bush to commit to a withdrawal timetable, and has endorsed the timetable for withdrawal put forth by Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama that calls for a 16 month timeframe.
In addition, al-Maliki has specifically stated the situation in Iraq does not call for the kind of long-term (100 year) presence in Iraq as outlined and promoted by Republican nominee John McCain.
Maliki's remarks are contained in a German newspaper interview published on the Spiegel website (linked here).
In the interview, Spiegel journalists first ask Maliki how he feels about the a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq:
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.
Maliki then identifies the key stumbling point for drawing the Iraq War to a conclusion, citing the wrong-headed political motives of the Bush administration, specifically the desire on the part of the Republican administration to avoid the appearance of defeat.
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.
Next, the specter of Iraqi courts moving against U.S. contractors in Iraq is marked by Maliki as just one of the negotiating points that must be ironed out with the Bush administration, and he also cites concerns over the process of withdrawal. Maliki obviously does not want to leave it up the U.S. Generals -- as John McCain has suggested -- but sees a role for his government in framing the specific steps forming the withdrawal timetable.
SPIEGEL: Immunity for the US troops is apparently the central issue.
Maliki: It is a fundamental problem for us that it should not be possible, in my country, to prosecute offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population. But other issues are no less important: How much longer will these soldiers remain in our country? How much authority do they have? Who controls how many, soldiers enter and leave the country and where they do so?
Finally, Maliki speaks specifically to Barack Obama's proposed 16 month timetable.
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.
Hopefully Republicans and Democrats, and conservatives and liberals alike, will all rejoice that the end of this terrible farce, this shameful sham dubbed the "Global War on Terror," is drawing to a close -- but I rather doubt that Republicans will take this defeat of John McCain's plan of attack towards Iraq with any sort of grace or good will.
It's never been about terrorism or WMDs or liberating the people of Iraq, and the world knows it. While we shouldn't hang our heads in shame over Bush's blunders we owe it to the world to "get over" our mistakes and proudly move forward towards the quick conclusion to our occupation as called for by PM al-Maliki -- and quit the pompous face-saving electoral-motivated actions of the Bush administration. There's important work ahead of us in rebuilding this great nation to our previous stature and standing both domestically and abroad.
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