Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maliki backs Obama's troop withdrawal plan from Iraq

This is huge. From

BERLIN, July 19 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"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."

It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Obama has called for a shift away from a "single-minded" focus on Iraq and wants to pull out troops within 16 months, instead adding U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan.

This is just huge. First, Maliki wants U.S. occupation troops out of Iraq. All the PR-spin that we've been hearing from the Bush administration and the GOP about how Iraq would descend into anarchy and ethnic civil war if the U.S. pulled out, all the talk of how the Bush administration are holding the strings of a puppet government in Iraq, and here is the U.S. handpicked puppet leader of Iraq saying he supports Democrat Barack Obama's approach for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months. This is just incredible.

What is Republican Senator John McCain's response to Maliki? According to The

In 2004 Mr McCain told the Council on Foreign Relations that if asked to leave, America would have to withdraw.

[I]f that scenario evolves then I think it's obvious that we would have to leave because -- if it was an elected government of Iraq, and we've been asked to leave other places in the world. If it were an extremist government then I think we would have other challenges, but I don't see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people.

But the McCain campaign's most recent statement was more non-committal. "Senator McCain has always said that conditions on the ground—including the security threats posed by extremists and terrorists, and the ability of Iraqi forces to meet those threats—would be key determinants in US force levels," said Randy Scheunemann, Mr McCain's foreign-policy adviser, avoiding the question.

Mr Maliki has sure put Mr McCain in a box. The candidate has prided himself on standing firm on Iraq—he has maintained his hawkish stance and criticised those who even utter the word "timetable". Moreover, his campaign has attacked Mr Obama's "constantly shifting positions" on Iraq. So it would be a difficult political manoeuvre for Mr McCain to respond at all positively to Mr Maliki's idea. Meanwhile, Mr Obama might begin to ask a receptive American electorate, "Who is it that wants America to stay in Iraq?"

In 2004, Senator McCain stated that if a legitimately elected Iraqi government asked for the U.S. to leave Iraq, then the U.S. should honor the Iraqi government's request. Now presidential candidate McCain has reversed himself, saying that the U.S. would withdrawal from Iraq only when the Iraqi forces are able to respond to terrorist threats to U.S. satisfaction, irregardless of the Iraqi government's position. This places John McCain in a very bad position, since McCain has staked a 100-year U.S. war in Iraq. And Maliki wants the U.S. out of Iraq in 16 months. What is worst, is that John McCain has focused his campaign on the Iraq war, saying that McCain himself has the greater foreign policy experience to confront the problems with Iraq, and that Barack Obama will surrender Iraq to the terrorists. McCain has said that the U.S. surge in Iraq has been a success, and that we should not leave Iraq before victory, or whatever "victory" is according to McCain. If the U.S. surge is a success, then it is time for the U.S. to leave Iraq. The McCain campaign has made the U.S. war in Iraq a single-focus issue to run on--every other issue has been a disaster for the McCain campaign. Now Maliki has pulled the Iraq rug out from under John McCain, sending McCain's pro-100-year-war Iraq policy into a shambles.

Update: I should point out that the McCain campaign has so far avoided directly responding to Maliki's endorsement of Obama's troop withdrawal timetable. Instead, McCain has been generally avoiding the question of Maliki's demands for a general timetable, saying that U.S. troops will leave Iraq only after they achieve "victory." So the McCain campaign has found themselves in a very bad situation, where McCain is, again, contradicting himself on Iraq.

Update 2: The McCain campaign has responded to Maliki's comment on supporting Barack Obama's troomp withdrawal. According to The Los Angeles Times:

John McCain's Republican presidential campaign was forced to respond this afternoon to initial press reports that in an interview with a German magazine Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had essentially endorsed theRepublican presidential nominee to be Senator John McCain on one of his numerous visits to Iraq 16-month Iraq pullout timetable of Democrat Barack Obama.


The political fear for the McCain camp is that in its energetic focus on the Obama political field trip and the 16-month timetable, the media and voters will miss another similarity, Maliki's reference to taking into account actual military conditions on the ground.

That's a crucial difference between Obama, who emphasized the immediate withdrawal part to his party's left during the primary process, and McCain, who's stressed pulling out based on the military situation and commander's counsel.

So this afternoon the McCain campaign called attention to a new video documenting the shifts in Obama's Iraq withdrawal position and issued a statement by foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann that said in full:

"The difference between John McCain and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders. John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground.

"Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama.

"The fundamental truth remains that Senator McCain was right about the surge and Senator Obama was wrong. We would not be in the position to discuss a responsible withdrawal today if Sen. Obama's (anti-surge) views had prevailed."

Again, McCain sidesteps the issue, saying that Obama's troop withdrawal plan is wrong, and McCain is right about the U.S. troop surge success, while completely avoiding Maliki's endorsement of Obama's withdrawal plan. It is the same old crap, different day response to a failed McCain campaign policy of continuing the 100-year war.

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