Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Should We Stay or Should We Go?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

I know, it's far too easy a title. And it's been a question that's been around for quite a while as well, at least since "Should we have even gone in the first place?" became sort of moot. But all of a sudden, we've got a new angle from which to look at U.S. involvement in Iraq. In an interview appearing in the German magazine Spiegel, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that, although he wasn't trying to get involved in the American presidential election, he pretty much sided with Obama over McCain as to how soon U.S. troops should leave.

Clearly, this is significant. Although al-Maliki is most likely discussing this for reasons of his own national election, it has pretty clear implications for us. The U.S. position has always been that the military is not occupying Iraq so much as helping the country. If al-Maliki says, "Thanks, we appreciate the help, but we think we can take it from here," the only reason not to withdraw is because we're, y'know, occupying Iraq.

The Obama campaign wasted little time in putting out a statement to the effect of, "Yeah, we agree." McCain's spokesperson did a little dancing, arguing that al-Maliki, unlike Obama, has always said that conditions on the ground should determine when the U.S. pulls out, and he's pretty much said the same thing again, following up with a statement from the campaign itself that timing isn't really that important, anyway. Well, al-Maliki hasn't contradicted his point of view about conditions on the ground, but his point seemed to be that timing is important. The most interesting response, however, may well have come from a professed Iranian Iraqi government bureaucrat which claimed that al-Maliki's statements had been mistranslated by Spiegle. Unfortunately, he doesn't explain what precisely was translated incorrectly, or what the correct translation would be. Further adding to its credibility problems is the fact that the statement came out from the U.S. military rather than any sort of Iraqi government entity. Yeah, nothing odd going on there.

Whether al-Maliki will stand up for his statement or fold under sure pressure that he's getting from the Bush administration, the timing of this, coming as Obama is starting a tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, can't be a coincidence. If Obama and al-Maliki get together to talk at some point over the next few days, they'll certainly be having some intriguing discussions.

UPDATE--I've made a couple of corrections to fix typos and clarify a point that actually conveyed the opposite of what I intended.


At 5:59 PM, July 20, 2008, Blogger Jason said...

Minor typo (freudian slip?) in your post -- it wasn't an Iranian official who issued the "correction" of Maliki's "mistranslated" statement, but an Iraqi official. I know Baghdad and Tehran are close these days (no surprise to anyone who understands the difference between Shi'a and Sunni, which means Senator McCain is probably surprised). But they are not quite that close.

There is one other interesting thing about this "correction" (der Spiegel stands by its story, and the Iraqis aren't specifying what was "mistranslated"). The "correction" was issued through CENTCOM's press office.

At 11:44 PM, July 20, 2008, Anonymous Doug said...

I knew I was writing Iranian in there somewhere. I looked at it a couple of times but still didn't see it. Thanks for the correction.


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