Maliki Embraces Obama Timetable for Withdrawal

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a German newsmagazine that he supported the idea of American troops leaving Iraq within the 16 month time frame proposed by Barack Obama.

Maliki 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."

This is after Maliki agreed with President Bush in a conference call earlier in the week on a "time horizon" for meeting "aspirational goals" for reducing U.S. forces in Iraq. 

So what gives? What's Maliki's game?

Maliki is running for office. With elections scheduled for October, there is little doubt that he wishes to forestall any move by his rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, to make hay out of Maliki's close association with the occupation. In short, he is moving to shore up his right (nationalistic) flank by being seen as eager for the Americans to leave.

As the need for American troops to stay in Iraq lessens, the Iraqi people will be more anxious for us to go. Candidates who recognize that political reality will probably do well in the elections.

Maliki's Shia brethren are split on the issue of the occupation with a large segment supporting al-Sadr's call for our immediate withdrawal and a slightly larger faction who recognize the reality of the occupation but want most of us out as soon as it is safe to go. It is these voters that Maliki is appealing to. The bitter enders who support al-Sadr will never win a majority unless they can convince many of the realists that we will never go and that politicians like Maliki are encouraging us to stay.

Hence, Maliki's two step on withdrawal; being obtuse with Bush while pronouncing Obama's specific proposal acceptable. He doesn't want to offend Bush/McCain but for political reasons finds it desirable to pander to those Shias who are worried about the US overstaying its welcome.

The coalition of Shia parties that currently govern Iraq will no doubt win a majority again in October, although it will probably be reduced due to increased Sunni participation in the electoral process as well as a hopefully better showing by the non-sectarian, secular parties. This makes it all the more important for Maliki to be seen as standing up to the Americans among his co-religionists. Eliminating al-Sadr as a rival - especially in the south - will help him consolidate his position and in the end, be the best we can hope for as far as a political outcome in Iraq.



Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a German newsmagazine that he supported the idea of American troops leaving Iraq within the 16 month time frame proposed by Barack Obama.

Maliki 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."

This is after Maliki agreed with President Bush in a conference call earlier in the week on a "time horizon" for meeting "aspirational goals" for reducing U.S. forces in Iraq. 

So what gives? What's Maliki's game?

Maliki is running for office. With elections scheduled for October, there is little doubt that he wishes to forestall any move by his rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, to make hay out of Maliki's close association with the occupation. In short, he is moving to shore up his right (nationalistic) flank by being seen as eager for the Americans to leave.

As the need for American troops to stay in Iraq lessens, the Iraqi people will be more anxious for us to go. Candidates who recognize that political reality will probably do well in the elections.

Maliki's Shia brethren are split on the issue of the occupation with a large segment supporting al-Sadr's call for our immediate withdrawal and a slightly larger faction who recognize the reality of the occupation but want most of us out as soon as it is safe to go. It is these voters that Maliki is appealing to. The bitter enders who support al-Sadr will never win a majority unless they can convince many of the realists that we will never go and that politicians like Maliki are encouraging us to stay.

Hence, Maliki's two step on withdrawal; being obtuse with Bush while pronouncing Obama's specific proposal acceptable. He doesn't want to offend Bush/McCain but for political reasons finds it desirable to pander to those Shias who are worried about the US overstaying its welcome.

The coalition of Shia parties that currently govern Iraq will no doubt win a majority again in October, although it will probably be reduced due to increased Sunni participation in the electoral process as well as a hopefully better showing by the non-sectarian, secular parties. This makes it all the more important for Maliki to be seen as standing up to the Americans among his co-religionists. Eliminating al-Sadr as a rival - especially in the south - will help him consolidate his position and in the end, be the best we can hope for as far as a political outcome in Iraq.