In a story on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's assertion to a German magazine that Sen. Barack Obama's 16-month timeline “would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal,” the Los Angeles Times reported that “a Maliki spokesman said the magazine, Der Spiegel, had misinterpreted the prime minister's comments.” But the Los Angeles Times did not note that the Maliki office's statement was issued only after the U.S. embassy reportedly contacted Maliki “to express concern.”
In a July 21 article on Sen. Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's assertion to a German magazine that Obama's 16-month timeline “would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal,” the Los Angeles Times reported that “a Maliki spokesman said the magazine, Der Spiegel, had misinterpreted the prime minister's comments.” But the Los Angeles Times did not note that the statement was issued only after the U.S. embassy reportedly contacted Maliki “to express concern,” in the words of The Washington Post. Furthermore, The New York Times confirmed the initial reporting in its own translation of the comments.
In a July 21 article, the Post reported:
On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was quoted in the German magazine Der Spiegel as embracing Obama's 16-month withdrawal timetable, causing a stir at the White House. 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 mistranslated and misunderstood, though without citing specifics. Der Spiegel issued a statement standing by the quotations.
The New York Times also reported that the White House said the embassy contacted Maliki's office:
Scott M. Stanzel, a White House spokesman with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., said that embassy officials explained to the Iraqis how the interview in Der Spiegel was being interpreted, given that it came just a day after the two governments announced an agreement over American troops.
“The Iraqis were not aware and wanted to correct it,” he said.
Additionally, while, in his statement, Maliki's spokesman said that Maliki's initial statement had been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” The New York Times reported that “the interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki's office,” and not Der Spiegel, the magazine that reported the comments. The New York Times continued:
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.”
From the July 21 Los Angeles Times article:
Central to Obama's strategy is a plan to remove combat troops from Iraq in a set time frame, although he has said he would fine-tune his tactics depending on conditions in Iraq and advice he gets from military leaders.
One military leader stepped into the debate Sunday. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that setting a two-year deadline to pull all troops out of Iraq would not be advisable.
“I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard,” Mullen said. “I'm convinced at this point in time that making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.”
Obama's expected Republican opponent in November, Sen. John McCain, seized on Mullen's remarks. One of McCain's foreign policy advisors, Randy Scheunemann, said in a prepared statement: “Barack Obama says he wants a 'safe and responsible' withdrawal from Iraq, but is stubbornly adhering to an unconditional withdrawal that places politics above the advice of our military commanders, the success of our troops, and the security of the American people.”
Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Maliki, had appeared to approve of Obama's plan to close out the war. In an interview with a German magazine published Saturday, Maliki said the 16-month deadline “would be the right time frame for a withdrawal. ...”
But on Sunday, a Maliki spokesman said the magazine, Der Spiegel, had misinterpreted the prime minister's comments.
Ali Dabbagh said Maliki had told Der Spiegel that improved security in Iraq would permit the exit of U.S. forces within certain “horizons and timelines” -- language that more closely tracks the Bush administration's position. There was no mention of specific dates. In an unusual step, the U.S. military gave the Western media an English translation of Dabbagh's statement.
The White House announced Friday that President Bush had agreed in a video call with Maliki the day before on a “general time horizon” for withdrawing U.S. combat troops, a softening of his long-standing opposition to deadlines.