07/21/2008 04:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Maliki Does NOT Credit 'Surge' with Turnaround in Iraq

Unless I'm mistaken, while the media -- and bloggers -- have focused on Maliki's seeming endorsement of Obama's position on Iraq, what has been largely ignored is his statement in the same Der Spiegel interview that also undercuts McCain badly.

In fact, I was only dimly aware of it until coming across it today at, of all places, National Review's "The Corner." Here is part of what Andy McCarthy posted there.

He opens with the Maliki Obama-backing statement, pointing out that if today's New York Times account is to be credited, "McCain should stick with the Maliki was 'inartful' explanation: 'Mistranslated and taken out of context' is not gonna fly."

Then he observes:

As I've mentioned before, Maliki, of the Shiite Dawa Party which opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place, has long-standing ties to Iran and Syria -- and has expressed support for Hezbollah. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that anyone is surprised.

Another telling aspect of the Spiegel interview has gotten no attention. Maliki was asked what has calmed the violence in Iraq and responded as follows: "There are many factors, but I see them in the following order. First, there is the political rapprochement we have managed to achieve in central Iraq. This has enabled us, above all, to pull the plug on al-Qaida. Second, there is the progress being made by our security forces. Third, there is the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias. Finally, of course, there is the economic recovery."

Notice: No credit to or thanks for the efforts and sacrifices of the United States and our armed forces, much less the surge. In fact, Maliki's major observation about American troops, other than that he wants them out of Iraq "as soon as possible," is that he wants the power to prosecute them for "offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population" -- a major sticking point in negotiations over a status of forces agreement.

Then there's this today from Ben Smith at, quoting Maliki from December 2002 as basically opposing an invasion: "The danger to Iraq lies in the possibility of the U.S. administration making mistakes in its supervision of this crisis. Those who will rule Iraq after Saddam Hussein cannot be envied. Don't fight for ruling an Iraq full of widows and orphans and burdened with heavy debt."

Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's "The Corner" just now posted: "Sure, McCain can still argue that Obama's judgment, particularly on the surge, has been wrong. But Obama will also still be able to argue that McCain was wrong to support the invasion of Iraq in the first place. And on the forward-looking question, McCain's charge that Obama's course would be reckless is looking a lot weaker today. I don't see any way to deny that this development helps Obama."

More from NRO today, from Byron York: "Maybe McCain shouldn't have been so emphatic. What if Obama went to Iraq, decided his position was the correct one, and then, in a major campaign coup, received what appeared to be the endorsement of the Iraqi prime minister? And -- extra points -- made himself look more statesmanlike in the process? Obama arrived in Baghdad early this morning, and all that seems to have happened."
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Fails on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.