Translation Issue or More WaPo Hackery?

We noted over the weekend that the Washington Post all but ignored the initial story of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki announcing his support for Barack Obama’s 16 month withdrawal plan. Now that the Iraqi government’s de facto embrace of Obama’s timetable (or something very close to it) is undeniable, the Post is highlighting the claim that the Iraqis’ timetable is allegedly eight months longer than Obama’s.

See WaPo currently front page hed …

But is eight months even accurate? There appear to be contending translations of precisely what Iraqi government spokesman al-Dabbagh said, specifically whether he said during 2010 or by the end the year. The Times suggests that Reuters and the AP are the sources of the contending translations …

Mr. Obama described his talk with Mr. Maliki as “a wonderful visit,” but news agencies reported that a government spokesman said that they did not discuss the timing of any troop withdrawal. However, the spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, addressed the issue. According to Reuters, he said, “We cannot give any timetables or dates but the Iraqi government believes the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.” The Associated Press quoted Mr. Dabbagh as saying, “We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq,” but noting that any plans would have to change should violence rise.

Now, eight months seems a tad off regardless since presumably the clock on Obama’s 16 months would start counting on roughly Feb.1st 2009 — days after the inauguration of Bush’s successor. But set that aside for the moment.

In this clip from MSNBC, al-Dabbagh says “up to 2010.”

To be clear, precisely what al-Dabbagh said does seem a tad unclear at the moment. And I’d like more clarity on that question. But on the broader point, I’d hate to think the transparent agenda of the abysmal Post OpEd is bleeding over into the newsroom, whose news coverage, especially on foreign affairs, is consistently excellent.