Interesting news from the Iraqis:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.
In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
“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.”
It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.
Obama has called for a shift away from a “single-minded” focus on Iraq and wants to pull out troops within 16 months, instead adding U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan.
Asked if he supported Obama’s ideas more than those of John McCain, Republican presidential hopeful, Maliki said he did not want to recommend who people should vote for.
“Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems.”
From a purely political point of view, this helps Obama by giving legitimacy to his plans. Bush and McCain have always said that we would leave if the Iraqis asked them to stay.
It also isn’t a surprise. Malaki has been hinting at this for years, and he’s repeated it often in the last month. The Bush administration tried to negotiate long-term bases, but it’s becoming clearer that the Iraqis have different ideas.
As for what’s best for Iraq, nobody knows. Malaki is certainly trying to consolidate power, and by calling for a withdrawel be blunts some of the criticism coming from Sadr.
It’s certainly a positive development from the American point of view. We cannot maintain our presence there. It’s killing our economy, and it’s hurting the efforts in Afghanistan.