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July 21, 2008

NSN Daily Update: Iraqi Government Again Expresses Desire for Timetable
Posted by The National Security Network

This morning after Prime Minister Maliki met with Senator Obama, Iraq’s government again expressed the hope that U.S. combat troops would be out of Iraq by the end of 2010.  The statement was made by Prime Minister Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh and it was made in English.  This clears up any confusion that may have arisen earlier this weekend over whether or not Prime Minister Maliki was endorsing a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces.

Maliki embraces 16 month plan for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. 
In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the first time endorsed a vision for a specific timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.  “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,” Maliki was quoted as saying. “Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems.”  He also added that “The Americans have found it difficult to agree on a concrete timetable for the exit because it seems like an admission of defeat to them. But it isn't.” [Reuters, 7/19/08.  Der Spiegel, 7/20/08]

Maliki’s statements affirm that the Iraqis want us to leave, despite attempts by the Bush Administration to walk back the prime minister’s statements.
After diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Mr. Maliki’s advisers on Saturday, the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement claiming Mr. Maliki’s words had been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” while specifics were not cited.   The government’s statement was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday.   However, the statements have been verified by independent sources.  The interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine.  Moreover, “in an audio recording of Mr. Maliki’s interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Mr. Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Mr. Obama’s position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.” [NY Times, 7/21/08]

Bush and McCain’s refusal to acknowledge Iraqis’ demands for a timetable is causing the Iraqi government to try and pressure the Bush Administration.
  For years the Bush Administration has said that when Iraqis stand up we will stand down and has built a strategy based on pressuring the Iraqis to do more to take responsibility for their own country.  But ironically the tables have turned and as the Associated Press reported yesterday Maliki’s comment supporting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces is part of a concerted effort to put pressure on the Bush Administration to have American troops leave.  [AP, 7/20/08]

Quick Hits

Senator Barack Obama is in Iraq today
, travelling to Basra and Baghdad, as well as meeting with troops and various America, foreign and Iraqi leaders.  He visited Afghanistan over the weekend.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, spoke on the subject of Iran this weekend, saying: “Right now I'm fighting two wars, and I don't need a third one.”

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver, begins his trial today.

Meanwhile, North Korean nuclear talks have been moved to the highest levels of diplomacy. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet Wednesday with her North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will sign a deal for future talks
on the current political crisis in that beleaguered nation.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey delivers a speech this morning on national security and the law. He’s set to address various aspects of the Administration’s approach to combating terrorism as well as reacting to judicial rulings on detainees.  He is not expected to follow up on what the Administration has stated is a desire to close Guantanamo.

Iraq’s Election Commission has proposed delays in the provincial elections.

General David Petraeus commented over the weekend on al Qaeda’s changing strategy: “‘They're not going to abandon Iraq. They're not going to write it off. None of that,’ he said.  ‘But what they certainly may do is start to provide some of those resources that would have come to Iraq to Pakistan, possibly Afghanistan.’"


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