Here's how the New York Times's Arabic interpreters officially translated the SPIEGEL audio:
“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.”
The way the government walked back the remarks is fairly surprising, if not entirely credible.
Mr. Maliki's interview prompted immediate concern from the Bush administration, which called to seek clarification from Mr. Maliki’s office, American officials said.
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.
So Maliki, by most accounts an incredibly shrewd, smart, guy, doesn't... you know...read Western newspapers and has no sense of the American political climate -- or Europe's political climate at all?