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UPDATE: This one is so big, I'm entering at the top of the diary.  The NYT confirming the bombshell:

But the 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.

The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. 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."

Just as we thought.  The best part: the interpreter that "misinterpreted" is Maliki's guy!  I mean, the White House couldn't look like bigger liars if they tried!

Rest of diary follows after the jump...

Woo hoo, this is rich:

Along those lines, Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, who the Times calls a spokesman for the Iraqi government, has released a statement saying that Prime Minister Maliki's statement was "misunderstood and mistranslated" and "not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq." But as the Times notes al Dabbagh did not specify what had been mistranslated.

Another interesting detail, noted by the Times. al-Dabbagh's statement was released by CentCom. I do not know how often Iraqi government statements are released by CentCom.

So, the official Iraqi spokesman's statement was released by U.S. Central Command?  Um, are they fucking kidding us?  Couldn't they be a little more subtle about this?

On top of that, really?  A misinterpretation?  Really?! How could this whole thing be a misinterpretation? What, did the reputed and storied Der Spiegel   drop a "not" here or there? Did Maliki really mean:

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months," he said in an interview with Der Spiegel that was released Saturday.

"That, we think, would be [NOT] right time frame for a withdrawal, with [NOT] the possibility of slight changes," he said.

I mean, please.  How tortured.  I can't wait for Der Spiegel to release the tape, because I have a feeling that a news magazine that battled with Nazi Germany and Communist East Germany is a little more savvy than the White House ... I'm sorry ... the Iraqi spokesman is giving it credit for.  

Also, equally as [NOT] subtle is the alleged spokesman himself himself. Could they have tried to use someone who hasn't been a mouthpiece for the administration already?  Someone who, I dunno, hasn't given press conferences from the freakin' White House Conference Center Briefing Room standing next to Dana freakin' Perino?!  Repeatedly!?

Man, these guys can't even do a cover-up correctly.  

UPDATE: Digg it!  (thanks mouser)

UPDATE:  Der Speiegel stands firm: "Der SPIEGEL bleibt jedoch bei seiner Darstellung."  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that means that they are standing behind the translation.

UPDATE: Original title ("Iraqi spokesman's" "clarification" came via CENTCOM, and other ridiculousness ) has been truncated to allow for update notices.

UPDATE:  Der Speiegel definitely stands firm (international version):

Obama is pleased, but McCain certainly is not. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki expressed support for Obama's troop withdrawal plans. Despite a half-hearted retraction, the comments have stirred up the US presidential campaign. SPIEGEL stands by its version of the conversation....

In the interview, Maliki expressed support of Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. "That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of changes."

Maliki was quick to back away from an outright endorsement of Obama, saying "who they choose as their president is the Americans' business." But he then went on to say: "But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited."

A Baghdad government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a statement that SPIEGEL had "misunderstood and mistranslated" the Iraqi prime minister, but didn't point to where the misunderstanding or mistranslation might have occurred. Al-Dabbagh said Maliki's comments "should not be understood as support to any US presidential candidates." The statement was sent out by the press desk of the US-led Multinational Force in Iraq.

A number of media outlets likewise professed to being confused by the statement from Maliki's office. The New York Times pointed out that al-Dabbagh's statement "did not address a specific error." CBS likewise expressed disbelief pointing out that Maliki mentions a timeframe for withdrawal three times in the interview and then asks, "how likely is it that SPIEGEL mistranslated three separate comments? The Atlantic Monthly was astonished by "how little effort was made" to make the Baghdad denial convincing. And the influential blog IraqSlogger also pointed out the lack of specifics in the government statement.

SPIEGEL sticks to its version of the conversation.

Maliki's comments immediately hit the headlines of US papers and Web sites across the country, partly the result of a White House employee inadvertently sending out a news alert to its full media distribution list. The White House said it was an error and that it was meant to be sent internally only.


And as a commenter points out, since they have a transcript up the entire interview up already, it's quite likely that they have a video or tape of the interview.  Looking forward to CentCom ... er, the Iraqi spokeman's comment on that.

UPDATE:  Quoting Josh Marshall, "what a surprise":

The statement by an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling his remarks in Der Spiegel "misinterpreted and mistranslated" followed a call to the prime minister's office from U.S. government officials in Iraq.

Maliki had expressed support for a withdrawal plan similar to that of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in an interview with Der Speigel. U.S. troops should leave Iraq "As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned," Maliki had said. "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."

But after the Spiegel interview was published and began generating headlines Saturday, officials at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad contacted Maliki's office to express concern and seek clarification on the remarks, according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

And then, of course, the White House made the Iraqi "clarification" come through its own military command.  It's like Iraq has been vertically integrated into the executive branch!  How convenient!

Originally posted to VirginiaDem on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 07:59 PM PDT.

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