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As a Redstate resident liberal, constant reader, occasional commenter, and very rare poster (I think this is my third post in a year), I am much more given to sit back and read than to lay out my own opinion. A story that I read this morning, however, was too thought provoking to pass up:
Maliki has officially endorsed Obama’s 16-month Iraq withdrawal plan. Here’s the money quote:
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.
As an Obama supporter, I obviously thinks this is good news. It will serve to bolster Obama’s foreign policy chops and his claim that his judgment is better than McCain’s, despite his experience being slimmer.
I am aware that this is a conservative blog, so obviously I’m not simply posting a pro-Obama diary expecting to convince Redstate readers to all fall in line behind Obama. I’m not that much of an idealist. What I’m really curious about is why Maliki would come out and endorse one candidates plan over anothers. Here are the possibilities I see:
1) Maliki believes Obama’s plan is better. (This is obviously the most straightforward explanation.)2) Maliki thinks Obama is going to win, and he’s trying to make nice with the next U.S. president.3) Maliki doesn’t like Obama’s plan, but he knows that most of the people who run his country do. He wants to keep his job, so he’s going with the flow.4) Maliki, a Shiite, knows that when the U.S. pulls out, Shiites get the lion’s share of the power, and he’s only been pretending to care about greater Iraq all this time.
Those are the only realistic options I can think of. I tend to lean toward a combination 1-3, as I’ve seen no evidence to support 4. In any case, though, if Maliki keeps up this kind of talk, it will severely undercut a major aspect of McCain’s campaign.
The big question for McCain is how to respond to this kind of talk. I’m not sure what the best answer is, but as of now it seems that he needs to start undercutting Maliki’s competence, judgment, etc. I’m not sure it will work, but he can’t afford to have the elected Iraqi government essentially campaigning for Obama.
Title edit because Neil insists a “plan” is different than a “timeframe.”*Subtitle added because Neil thinks all the information contained in the post and any possible interpretations thereof should be contained in the title of said post. Unfortunately, the entire post would not fit in the title. Hopefully a subtitle is enough to keep Neil from going into conniptions.
UPDATE: This just hit Drudge. So far, the McCain camp has no comment. They’d better come up with one. I’d suggest they start by looking in the insightful comments below for a different take on Maliki’s interview. (NB: Not that I agree with that “different” take. Politically speaking, though, McCain better push back and push back fast before this story gets legs.)
UPDATE 2: As noted below, Maliki now says the he was misunderstood, mistranslated, etc. His spokespeople don’t tell us what his actual quote was, but it appears that no bus-throwing-under will be necessary for McCain this go round.
UPDATE 3: Per Moe’s request. Sorry for the lack of a link or citation in UPDATE 2. I couldn’t (and still can’t) find a full transcript of the retraction. It was given by al-Dabbagh, a spokeman for the Iraqi government, via Centcom. The fullest excerpt of that release that I’ve been able to find was via the Times :
Update II: Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, issued a statement saying Mr. Maliki’s statement had been “as not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq,” but it did not address a specific error. It did soften his support for Mr. Obama’s plan and implied a more tentative approach to withdrawing troops. More of the statement, which came from the U.S. military’s Central Command press office:
Al-Dabbagh explained that Mr. al-Maliki confirmed the existence of an Iraqi vision stems from the reality with regard to Iraq security needs, as the positive developments of the security situation and the improvement witnessed in Iraqi cities makes the subject of U.S. forces’ withdrawal within prospects, horizons and timetables agreed upon and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground, and security that came within the Strategic Plan for Cooperation which was laid and developed by Mr. Maliki and President George Bush. The Iraqi government appreciates and values the efforts of all the friends who continue to support and supporting Iraqi security forces.
Al-Dabbagh underscored that the statements made by the head of the ministerial council (Prime Minister al-Maliki) or any of the members of the Iraqi government should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.