If the subject weren’t so serious, it would be pretty funny. Reports this weekend that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had more or less endorsed Barack Obama’s redeployment plan for U.S. combat troops in his country produced all sorts of hysteria in the White House, which is now trying to claim Maliki and Bush are in synch on what’s being called a “time horizon” for withdrawal. Under God knows what kind of pressure from Washington, Maliki’s staff is also trying to suggest that his remarks in an interview with Der Spiegel were mistranslated or misinterpreted. But as The New York Times reports today, Maliki’s redemployment of his own words isn’t going too well:
Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Mr. Maliki’s advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine’s rendering of the interview.
The statement, which was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday, said Mr. Maliki’s words had been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” but it failed to cite specifics.
“Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate,” Mr. Dabbagh said Sunday by telephone. “I have the recording of the voice of Mr. Maliki. We even listened to the translation.”
But the interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine. 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.
The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “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.”
Kinda hard to walk that one back.