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Corrections: MNF-I, Not CENTCOM, Sent Out Last Week’s Dabbagh Statements On Withdrawal

Now here’s a weird one. Last Saturday, following Maliki’s Der Spiegel interview endorsing Barack Obama’s withdrawal plan, Maliki spokesman Al al-Dabbagh put out a statement that hedged a bit. (By Monday, he unequivocally said the Iraqi government wanted the U.S. out in 2010.) The New York Times reported that the statement was released by U.S. Central Command, the military command in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East. Like most of my colleagues, I followed the Times’s reporting.

But it seems we were all wrong. I got an e-mail from a CENTCOM spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a couple days ago:

Al Dabbagh’s statement was released by his office, not “by” or “through” CENTCOM, as a number of bloggers have reported.

MNF-I’s press office did provide an English translation to its own media distribution list, a few hours after it was released the the Government of Iraq spokesman to Iraqi and pan-Arab press. MNF-I does this as a standard practice, as the Iraqis don’t have the same capacity for press translations. But apart from helping them reach a wider audience, neither MNF-I nor CENTCOM has any involvement in what the Iraqi government says in its press statements.

MNF-I is the acronym for the U.S. military command in Iraq. Speaks further clarified that CENTCOM hadn’t released any statement of Dabbagh’s. I checked with Col. Steve Boylan, Petraeus’ chief press aide at MNF-I, and he said Speaks was right:

Bill is correct in that we resent [Dabbagh's] statement out after it had been released and was sent to us. It is a matter of course that we resend out their releases to our distro list and have been doing so ever since I was here in 2004. They don’t have the same distro list as we do…

When I asked Boylan why the statement was reported as coming from CENTCOM and not MNF-I, he replied, “No idea.” So there you have it, for the record.

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