Thus, the only thing really surprising about this development is how little effort was made to make it convincing: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: [...]
You can read the full statement at the link, but this summary really tells you what you need to know, namely that the walkback (a) doesn't involve Maliki on the record, (b) says the reports are inaccurate but doesn't name inaccuracies, and (c) was issued through CENTCOM. Basically, this morning we saw Maliki speaking in person and endorsing Obama's plan to end the occupation in no uncertain terms. By the late afternoon, an Iraqi government spokesman was pretending this never happened in a statement released by the occupying army. That's hardly even a serious effort at bamboozlement.
No kidding. That's weak sauce.
Furthermore, Der Spiegel recorded the interview and gave the tapes to various news outlets for verification. Here's the competing translations:
There's a world of difference there, I tell you. Post-waterboarding, he may have "regretted" saying it, but he said it all the same.
Spiegel: "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....Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."
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....Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq."