Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denied agreeing to any timetable or benchmarks that outlined plans to deal with militias, amend the constitution, distribute the Iraq’s oil revenue.

This contradicts Tuesday’s media event where U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey announced an agreement on said timelines.

Maybe all of this confusion has something to do with the President’s game of semantics. First these were called timelines and in his speech yesterday the President frequently referred to them as benchmarks. Coincidently, on the same day al-Maliki was denying that such agreements even existed.

Is the U.S. running the show in Iraq? Or is al-Maliki calling the shots on this possible timeline? This is beginning to smell more like a failed attempt by the administration at an “October surprise.”

As the Republicans poll numbers have continued to spiral and the public’s view of Iraq has gone sour, the administration did its best on Tuesday to manipulate an issue prior to the election. By originally using “timeline”, they framed the message to sound like a possible withdrawal, hopeful to catch voters’ attention. Switching to “benchmarks” on Wednesday lowers expectations a bit, but the seed was already planted. Now we find out that al-Maliki has not even agreed to these “benchmarks”.

Furthermore he stated, “I affirm that this government represents the will of the people, and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it.”

Sounds like someone forgot to pass al-Maliki the memo that President Bush is trying to save this election for his party.

 Shaun Moore blogs at The Daily Spectator.

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