We already knew that the Maliki "clarification" came only after pressure from the White House & CENTCOM, and that that "clarification" largely just reaffirmed his point that Obama's time frame is more in line with the views of the Iraqi government. We also already knew that the original translation was done by Maliki's official translator, not Der Spiegel. Well, now TNR is reporting that Maliki's office personally reviewed the translation and signed off on it.
But it turns out that Maliki actually got a copy of the interview before it was printed and had the option to make any changes. A writer at Der Spiegel sent us this tidbit of info:
The reason the magazine scores so many high level interviews is that the editors agree to allow the subjects to "authorize" the interviews before they go to press. It wasn't just a slip of the tongue, in other words: Maliki not only endorsed Obama's plans for withdrawing from Iraq, but his office then explicitly approved the endorsement before it was printed. The denials, then, were doubly facetious. Spiegel couldn't say so, though, without revealing its embarrassing authorization policy.
We can all debate Der Spiegel's policy of allowing it's subjects to "authorize" what gets published, but the fact that Maliki enorsed Obama's position is now, unequivocally, beyond dispute.
Just so we're clear, the sovereign government of Iraq explicitly embraces the idea of withdrawing US troops by the end of 2010 -- directly in line with the plan put forth by the so-called "unexperienced" Barack Obama. The only conclusion that can be drawn from the entire episode, besides that Maliki wants US forces out of his country, is that George Bush and John McCain want the opposite, despite any rhetoric to the contrary. It's hard to overstate how monumental a game-changer this all is, but Matthew Yglesias does a pretty good job of summing it up.
[McCain had] spent, several weeks with the main theme of his campaign being, quite literally, to criticize Barack Obama for not having been physically present in Iraq recently. This (of course) got Obama to go to Iraq, thus setting up a dilemma. Either Obama would survey the "progress" in Iraq and change his position, thus making him a flip-flopper, or else he would refuse to change his position, thus making him obstinate and out of touch with reality.
But instead of either of those things happening, Obama went to Iraq and Iraqi leaders said he'd been right all along! That's about as close to "game, set, match" as you get in terms of real world events influencing your political campaign. What's more, given the domestic situation and John McCain's inability to talk about domestic issues persuasively, he can't afford to play for a draw on Iraq.