The Iraqi political standoff is so muddled and confusing that even the New York Times may have been sucked into a disinformation effort.
The paper obviously attempts to verify the identities of those submitting op-ed pieces. But now a prominent Iraqi official is saying he never approved the words that appeared under his byline earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the Times published a column by three leaders of the opposition party Iraqiya, urging the Obama administration to pressure Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki into a power-sharing arrangement. Violence has erupted recently after a year in which Maliki has refused to form a coalition government with the opposition party, which scored well in the 2010 election. Administration officials have in fact urged Maliki’s Shiite government to share power with Sunni leaders.
The op-ed’s signers included Osama al-Nujaifi I, speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, and Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister.
“The United States must make clear that a power-sharing government is the only viable option for Iraq and that American support for Mr. Maliki is conditional,” they wrote, on his “dissolving the unconstitutional entities through which he now rules. Likewise, American assistance to Iraq's army, police and intelligence services must be conditioned on those institutions being representative of the nation rather than one sect or party.”
Now comes the oops part.
Nujaifi now charges in a statement that he had nothing to do with the opinion piece, according to Agence France-Presse.
"The article published in the New York Times... has been written without the knowledge of speaker Nujaifi," the statement said. Nujaifi’s office added that his name was "inserted in an attempt by some people to diminish the importance of his leadership."
Perhaps the speaker is just disavowing an article that became politically inconvenient. But if he’s right, the Times has been had.
Update: Saturday, 9:25 a.m.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy says the paper was approached about the op-ed a week ago by Jaber al-Jaberi, a member of the Iraqi Parliament and a representative of the Iraqiya party. On Friday, says Murphy, he confirmed “that all three officials had discussed the essay and that it represented the party’s point of view.” What’s more, she notes, “after the article was published online on Tuesday evening, party officials had the essay translated into Arabic and distributed over e-mail.”
Despite the statement by Nujaifi, Murphy says, neither he nor a representative has contacted the Times with any concerns. The paper has been unsuccessful in trying to reach Nujaifi.
No sooner did the U.S. first announce the talks to reporters than did Karzai again seem to suggest the Taliban was working in cahoots with us, reports Josh Rogin.