Looks like the Iraqis are going to help us get out of there.
Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Maliki's advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine's rendering of the interview.
The statement, which was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday, said Maliki's words had been "misunderstood and mistranslated," but it failed to cite specifics.
"Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate," Dabbagh said Sunday by telephone. "I have the recording of the voice of Mr. Maliki. We even listened to the translation."
But the interpreter for the interview works for Maliki's office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Maliki's interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Obama's position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.
The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Maliki's comments by The 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."
He continued: "Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq."
Maliki's top political adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, declined to comment on the remarks, but spoke in general about the Iraqi position on Sunday. Part of that position, he said, comes from domestic political pressure to withdraw.