BACK IN D.C. — Via Juan Cole, Nouri al-Maliki clarifies his intentions for U.S. troops in a Wall Street Journal interview:

‘ WSJ: Some American officials have spoken about contingency plans being drawn now in Washington for the possibility that some American troops will stay after 2011. Do you know about these contingency plans, and do you need troops?

Mr. Maliki: I do not care about what’s being said. I care about what’s on paper and what has been agreed to. The withdrawal of forces agreement [Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA] expires on Dec. 31, 2011. The last American soldier will leave Iraq.

Secondly this agreement is sealed and at the time we designated it as sealed and not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament’s approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country, that’s another matter. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration, it is sealed, it expires on Dec. 31 [2011]. ‘

“The last American soldier” probably exempts trainers for Iraqi pilots and other residual elements. But if anything, this reads like Maliki warning the Obama administration not to make any requests. And since Obama will need to cite the end of the Iraq war as an accomplishment during his reelection campaign, that probably amounts to an alignment of political interests.