Still More Maliki

by hilzoy

From the AP:

"Iraq's government welcomed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday with word that it apparently shares his hope that U.S. combat forces could leave by 2010.

The statement by Iraq's government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, followed talks between Obama and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki who has struggled for days to clarify Iraq's position on a possible timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.

Al-Dabbagh said the government did not endorse a fixed date, but hoped American combat units could be out of Iraq sometime in 2010. That timeframe falls within the 16-month withdrawal plan proposed by Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day as part of a congressional fact-finding team.

"We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," al-Dabbagh told reporters, noting that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence kicks up again."

TPM has video of al-Dabbagh's comments here. That would seem to settle the question whether Maliki was mistranslated.

Spencer Ackerman thinks that this leaves McCain only two options:

"There's nowhere left for McCain to go here. Either he endorses a timetable for withdrawal, which he has consistently said would be a disaster, and cedes his only big issue to Obama -- and more importantly, concedes that Obama's judgment is sound -- or he deliberately ignores the concerted, expressed wishes of the Iraqi government in order to prolong an unpopular war."

But McCain proves him wrong by coming up with a third:

"Vieira: "Senator Obama's timetable of removing U.S. troops from Iraq within that 16-month period seemed to be getting a thumbs up by the Iraqi prime minister when he called it 'the right timeframe for a withdrawal.' He has backed off that somewhat, but the Iraqis have not stopped using the word timetable, so if the Iraqi government were to say -- if you were President -- we want a timetable for troops being to removed, would you agree with that?"

McCain: "I have been there too many times. I've met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that's what happens when you win wars, you leave. We may have a residual presence there as even Senator Obama has admitted. But the fact is that it should be -- the agreement between Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government and the United states is it will be based on conditions."

That's right: by simply asserting that he knows what the Iraqi government wants better than they do, and that we should trust his take on what they think over theirs, McCain can avoid the need to respond at all. It's a pity that this strategy requires that he look like a complete idiot, and adopt an insulting attitude towards the Iraqi government and its people that would surely not serve him well were he elected President, but them's the breaks.

(Cross-posted at Obsidian Wings.)