Officials: Obama Reversal on Detainee Photos Came at Maliki’s Behest

Iraqi President Warned 'Baghdad Will Burn' if Photos Ever Came to Light

It came as something of a surprise when President Obama reversed his position on the release of photos of detainee abuse, despite his continued insistence that the contents were “not particularly sensational” and the Pentagon’s declaration that the photos could be released. Officials are now giving some insight as to why this is.

McClatchy is quoting several officials, including members of the Defense and State Departments as saying that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “went ballistic” when he heard about the planned release, telling the US that it would delay the June 30 pullout from Iraqi cities and declaring “Baghdad will burn” if the photos went public.

Iraqi officials would not confirm the report, but it seems that even without the photos’ release the US pullout from cities is still in serious doubt.

Obama had previously insisted that the release of the photos would “further inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger.” He reportedly was under pressure from members of Congress and the military as well, though it appears Maliki’s anger may have been what ultimately stopped the release.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.