IRAQ: YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME, BUT YOU CAN’T STAY HERE…. I suppose we can debate the meaning of the word “timetable,” but this sounds like we’re talking about an agreement that goes well beyond “aspirational time horizons.”

Iraq and the United States have agreed that all U.S. troops will leave by the end of 2011, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday, but Washington said no final deal had been reached.

“There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

“An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces,” he said.

Maliki’s remarks were the most explicit statement yet that the increasingly assertive Iraqi government expects the U.S. presence to end in three years as part of a deal between Washington and Baghdad to allow them to stay beyond this year.

When Maliki first roughly endorsed the Obama withdrawal policy, the McCain campaign suggested there was a translation problem. Or maybe a context problem. Or better yet, we should only listen to McCain, because only he knows exactly what Iraqis really want.

But today’s pronouncements doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for the Republican campaign. “Fixed date” and “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil” aren’t exactly ambiguous phrases.

Yglesias added, “Smart political leadership in the United States would consider this an open door that we should walk through — a way to extricate ourselves from Iraq in an honorable and relatively painless manner.”

So, how smart is our political leadership?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.