Bush Administration Strong-Arms Prime Minister Maliki
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In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made international headlines when he endorsed Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months. On Sunday, however, the U.S. military distributed a vague statement from Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, saying that Maliki's words had been " misunderstood and mistranslated." The clarification, however, failed to cite specific examples of errors.
In reality, Iraqi government officials may not have been worried about an error in translation. Instead, it appears that they were pressured by the Bush administration to walk back Maliki's statements :
But after the Spiegel interview was published and began generating headlines Saturday, officials at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad contacted Maliki's office to express concern and seek clarification on the remarks, according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. Later in the day, a Maliki aide released a statement saying the remarks had been misinterpreted, though without citing specific comments.
Today, the New York Times casts further doubt on al-Dabbagh's excuse. The interpreter for the interview worked for Maliki's office, not Der Spiegel. The Times also double-checked the translation by obtaining an audio recording of Maliki's interview, which was conducted in Arabic. Directly translated, it reads: