Der Spiegel is standing by its story, its translation of what Maliki said.
And as Ben Smith aptly puts it, “It’s almost a convention of politics that when a politician says he was misquoted, but doesn’t detail the misquote or offer an alternative, he’s really saying he wishes he hadn’t said what he did, or that he needs to issue a pro-forma denial to please someone. The Iraqi Prime Minister’s vague denial seems to fall in that category. The fact that it arrived to the American press via CENTCOM, seems to support that.”
Matt Yglesias enumerates the reasons why this ‘walk back’ almost certainly falls into the latter category.
I’ll be watching to see whether the major papers continue to downplay the story. As Todd Gitlin notes, of the LA Times, Washington Post and NY Times, only the LAT put the story on the front page of their Sunday paper, though the Post had it as an ambiguous subhed on their front page Obama to War Zone story.
Notably and humorously, the Post editorial page appears to ignore the issue entirely.
Late Update: TPM Reader TB notes that weekend editorials are usually banked in advance and not written in response to the news of the preceeding day. In this case, the topic seems so central to the Post editors’ concerns that I thought they might take a crack at it. But TB makes a good and fair point.