A day after attempting to walk back previous professions in favor of a timeline for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Iraqi government has once again stipulated their preference for such a timeline. According to the Associated Press, this morning, an Iraqi "government spokesman" stated that they are "hopeful that U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010."
This latest announcement comes in the wake of Barack Obama's arrival in Baghdad:
The time frame is similar to Obama's proposal to pull back combat troops within 16 months. The Iraqi government has been trying to clarify its position on a possible troop withdrawal since al-Maliki was quoted in [Der Spiegel] last week saying he supported Obama's timetable.
The AP report concludes with this reference to the Der Spiegel article: "The Iraqi government later said the prime minister's remarks were misinterpreted." This seems to cast doubt unnecessarily, however, as the spokesman who reinforced the Iraqi government's desire for withdrawal is the same person who initially participated in the walk-back, Ali al-Dabbagh. Previously, the New York Times had al-Dabbagh on the record saying, "Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate. I have the recording of the voice of Mr. Maliki. We even listened to the translation."
The AP doesn't connect the dots, but seeing as this new clarification comes straight from al-Dabbagh, it would seem that the walk-back has been walked back.
Moreover, al-Maliki has, over the past few weeks, actually moved closer to Obama's position on withdrawal, now suggesting that "U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010." Previously, the al-Maliki government had said, "It can be 2011 or 2012...We don't have a specific date in mind, but we need to agree on the principle of setting a deadline." Again, the one constant throughout all of these "clarifications" is the spokesman, al-Dabbagh.