If the New York Times account is to be credited, McCain should stick with the “Maliki was ‘inartful’” explanation. “Mistranslated and taken out of context” is not gonna fly.
The Times indicates that, after Maliki’s interview comments in Der Spiegel became known, U.S. diplomats complained. Only then did an Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issue a statement claiming Maliki’s words had been “misunderstood and mistranslated.” But not only did Dabbagh fail to explain specifically what Spiegel had supposedly gotten wrong in its rendering of the interview, which is on tape. The Times further reports:
[T]he interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine. And 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.
As I’ve mentioned before, Maliki, of the Shiite Dawa Party which opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place, has long-standing ties to Iran and Syria — and has expressed support for Hezbollah. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that anyone is surprised.
Another telling aspect of the Spiegel interview has gotten no attention. Maliki was asked what has calmed the violence in Iraq and responded as follows:
There are many factors, but I see them in the following order. First, there is the political rapprochement we have managed to achieve in central Iraq. This has enabled us, above all, to pull the plug on al-Qaida. Second, there is the progress being made by our security forces. Third, there is the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias. Finally, of course, there is the economic recovery.
Notice: No credit to or thanks for the efforts and sacrifices of the United States and our armed forces, much less the surge. In fact, Maliki’s major observation about American troops, other than that he wants them out of Iraq “as soon as possible,” is that he wants the power to prosecute them for “offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population” – a major sticking point in negotiations over a status of forces agreement.