July 23rd, 2008
08:34 AM ET

Iraq's shifting position - on U.S. troops and politics

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/22/art.obama.maliki.2.jpg]

Morgan Neil
AC360° Contributor

After Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki met with Barack Obama on Monday, his spokesman dropped a bombshell: Iraq had a vision, Ali al-Dabbagh said, that most US combat troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2010.

Here in CNN's Baghdad bureau, producer Jomana Karadsheh caught Dabbagh by phone as he boarded a plane with Maliki heading for Germany. Yes, he told her, the Iraqi Government's "vision" is that most US combat troops would be out of Iraq by 2010.

And, he added, this was nothing new.

Well, not so fast.

Just a couple of weeks ago, when I interviewed Dabbagh, we had this exchange:

Dabbagh: "Iraq should not be left alone, Iraq had to fight all al-Qaeda on behalf of all the region and all the international community, so it is very risky to have any premature steps which affect the security of the United States and Europe and all the region ... Whoever is coming White House will notice this reality and then accordingly will decide."

Q: Is that a message for Barack Obama?

Dabbagh: "I think so yes." (smiling)

So which is it? Is Sen. Obama's plan for withdrawal too fast for the prime minister's taste, as it appeared just a few weeks back? Or does Maliki really agree with his plan, as the latest comments indicate?

Well for now, it looks to be the latter. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First the prime minister is a politician, and he's under a great deal of political pressure here–an agreement that appeared to authorize an open-ended US troop presence would provoke a furious reaction.

Second, Iraq is in the midst of negotiations on a long-term security agreement with the US that could set the parameters for the two countries' relations for years to come, and it's hard not to see in the prime minister's position a healthy dose of old-fashioned negotiating tactics.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Iraq • Morgan Neil • Raw Politics • War on Terror
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. N. Shele

    First I must say, I am glad Obama won't say that the surge worked. I commend him for refusing to agree with a this portion of the war of which he never wanted any part of. We were duped into going to Iraq, and now he Just. Wants. Him. To. Say. IT. Say IT. I am pleased to say I am behind Obama, he has proven himself to me with this trip overseas. He looks presidential, he can motivate 200 thousand people, that are not of this country, voters or not, by the way, there are voters over there that WILL count, K. thanx. The most important thing to me is that McCaine is adopting some of his ideas and ultimately, the White House is actively holding talks. Which is something that has been opposed throughout Bush's entire second term. I suggest that Obama start charging to teach Bush how to play out the rest of his term, and get part of McCains campaign money every time McCaine takes Obamas position.

    July 27, 2008 at 4:38 am |
  2. Marc

    What makes it really difficult to understand is that even the Bush administration has shifted its talk. Seems to me that maybe Maliki has wanted this all along and sees the opportunity to talk to someone who will listen – after all it is their country. What's with Bush changing too? I wish I were convinced that McCain had all the answers as he suggests but I know a lot of old people who think they know everything and how everyone should run their lives – I take a pass. Bush and the Republicans have played the American people for fools on both foreign and domestic policies.

    July 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Alex

    Lets face reality! Iraq has become nothing more than a political chip with everybody including the Iraqi's themselves, trying to get the most votes and best deal they can. I don't see this entire mess being a win for anybody, but each candidate wants to lay claim to a victory. Iraq taken as a whole, has become nothing short of a disaster and I suspect "history" will be anything but kind to George W. Bush. I read just last week that a city in California wants to rename its sanitation complex after Mr. Bush to remind people what a remarkable job he's done in leading our nation during his tenure. My first reaction was to laugh, but then I realized that renaming the facility would be so appropriate given his overall performance.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  4. Pam M -London Ontario Canada

    Politics is the real enemy here. Everybody concerned is playing the game of politics. Up until now Maliki appeared to be in Bush's back pocket. It's time Iraq put their money where their mouth is and "get the lead out" and the same for the U.S. gov't. Everyone, including Obama, are looking out for their own futures. Does anyone really care about the soldiers that are doing the fighting and what will happen to them when they come home, especially those with psychological and physical problems? Bush is only concerned about his legacy and leaving office, Barack and McCain are battling for the "top job", and the troops are dodging bullets every second of the day. Let's face it, this is a no-win situation and it's time to step up to the plate and make a decision and DO IT!!!

    July 23, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Nye, NC

    Deborah, OH I think that you are spot on, and the part about being "scary" is more than a notion. Those of us who look at history will remember another leader that was in a touchy situation in South Vietnam. His name was Diem, and we know what happened to him.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  6. Miguel

    Now I see what Wesley Clark meant when he said that McCain's war experience was not necessarily a qualifier for being president. McCain is an officer who obeys the commands of a superior, who themselves obey the mission given by the president. Such officers, good as they may be in executing the commands to implement the tactics that generals and admirals design, are in no position to necessarily understand or know what the strategic issues are that the country must look at. When I see Obama answering questions yesterday in Amman and today in Israel, on Iran, for example, I see the commander-in-chief approach that looks at the larger strategy of a region of even the globe in terms of US interests, including and foremost, security. We have plenty of admirable officers who can execute orders, what we need is a commander-in-chief who can look and understand the big picture in today's world (not a 20-years ago world).

    I don't see the press understanding this important difference. Katie Curic, for example, showed her lack of understanding yesterday in questioning Obama about the surge. Can CNN do better?

    July 23, 2008 at 11:28 am |
  7. Deborah, OH

    You are so right, Morgan. Maliki is a politician & he is 'playing' politics. And this is a very important political 'game' that has to be done judiciously. I think it's a little 'scary' too.

    July 23, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  8. Cindy

    I think that Maliki and the rest are all playing politics over there. They are saying what they think will keep them in power. But behind closed doors they'll probably tell you something totally different than what they are saying now.

    Not much has changed in a few weeks so why has Dabbagh's statement changed so much? Pure politics!!


    July 23, 2008 at 9:09 am |
  9. Annie Kate

    Reminds me of trying to hit a moving target.....I wonder what Malaki would have said if it was McCain over on the fact finding mission instead of Obama – would the tune have been different?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 23, 2008 at 8:47 am |