The Iraqi PM’s endorsement of Barack Obama’s withdrawal timetable Saturday (walked back somewhat under pressure) was a calculated maneuver by a man who has figured out how to play US politics for his country's gain, Robert Reid writes for the AP. Nouri al-Maliki started using it as leverage when negotiations over the long-term US role in Iraq bogged down last month, and he sensed White House desperation to get a deal before the campaign swings into high gear.
“Let’s squeeze them,” he told advisers, before proceeding to do just that, Reid says. "The squeeze came July 7, when al-Maliki announced in Abu Dhabi that Iraq wanted the base deal to include some kind of timetable for withdrawing US troops," Reid writes. And lo and behold, Bush agreed to a “general time horizon” for withdrawal.