Der Spiegel is headlining this over their interview of al-Maliki. Haven’t read the whole interview yet, but the key passage seems to be:
US 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. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems.
(I actually had this story ready to post before Drudge ran with it as his weekend headline and before every other news source picked it up – as my reddit submission suggests. Unfortunately, my WordPress account wouldn’t let me post anything and I wasn’t able to fix it until today.)
Since this interview has been making headlines, an official spokesperson for al-Maliki has explained that there was a translation error. The generally understood explanation for this backtracking is that the White House put a great deal of pressure on al-Maliki to walk it back – which so many news sources are still leading with a variant on headline above.