Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

This qualifies as the stupidest thing the Maliki team has done…

…even stupider than Maliki believing that he’s got what it takes to run Iraq in the first place.

This is what the “genius” Da’awa Party apparatchik Hassan Al-Suneid, one of Maliki’s chief aides, had to say to the Associated Press today:

“…Al-Suneid, however, said al-Maliki was intentionally using the displeasure of American voters over Bush's handling of the war to strengthen his position.

"It's al-Maliki's chance to get what he wants. It's a chance for al-Maliki to force a better deal for himself," he said.”
So basically, this is very embarrassing for President Bush; he is being “manipulated” by the guy whose ass he is saving. Maliki knows that Bush is politically vulnerable, and is intentionally turning up the rhetorical heat.

Great. Except that in a month’s time, the Americans may pass a strong hint to the Iraqi military to take matters into its own hand, suspend parliament and form a “unity government.” This is not such a far-fetched scenario given that one of the key recommendations of Jim Baker’s Iraq Study Group will be to abandon the goal of firming up a democratic Iraq.

At that point, Maliki may find himself back in exile, in Damascus.

The anti-Bush camp is going to have a field day with this on the Sunday shows tomorrow. Ali Al-Dabbagh, the official spokesmen of the Iraqi cabinet, is asleep at the time of writing this post. The other “genius,” Yassin Majid, Maliki’s media coordinator, probably approved this statement too.

Maliki and his team are just way out of their league. This is not how strategic relationships are conducted.

This mistake comes at a time when many knives are out to stab Iraq’s democracy in its cradle. Only Bush had remained steady.

[The text of the AP story was posted in the comments section]

6 Comments:

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Aide: Iraqi leader playing on U.S. angst
By STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers
After a hastily arranged video conference with George Bush, Iraq's prime minister said Saturday that the U.S. president promised to move swiftly to turn over full control of the Iraqi army to the Baghdad government. A close aide to Nouri al-Maliki said later the prime minister was intentionally playing on U.S. voter displeasure with the war to strengthen his hand with Washington.
Hassan al-Suneid, a member of al-Maliki's inner circle, said the video conference was sought because issues needed airing at a higher level than with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Al-Suneid said the prime minister complained to Bush that Khalilzad, an Afghan-born Sunni Muslim, was treating the Shiite al-Maliki imperiously.
"The U.S. ambassador is not (L. Paul) Bremer (the former U.S. administrator in Iraq). He does not have a free rein to do what he likes. Khalilzad must not behave like Bremer but rather like an ambassador," al-Suneid quoted al-Maliki as saying.
The remarks were the fourth time in a week that al-Maliki challenged the U.S. handling of the war. The ripostes flowed from an announcement by Khalilzad on Tuesday that al-Maliki had agreed to a U.S. plan to set timelines for progress in quelling violence in Iraq.
Al-Maliki's anger grew through the week until on Friday, al-Suneid said, the prime minister told Khalilzad: "I am a friend of the United States, but I am not America's man in Iraq."
After Saturday's talks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said of al-Maliki: "He's not America's man in Iraq. The United States is there in a role to assist him. He's the prime minister — he's the leader of the Iraqi people."
Snow said that reports of a rift between the United States and Iraq were wrong and that Bush had full confidence in al-Maliki.
"What you've got in Maliki is a guy who is making decisions. He's making tough decisions, and he's showing toughness and he's also showing political skill in dealing with varying factions within his own country. And both leaders understand the political pressures going on."
Snow said Bush told al-Maliki not to worry about U.S. politics "because we are with you and we are going to be with you."
Al-Suneid, however, said al-Maliki was intentionally using the displeasure of American voters over Bush's handling of the war to strengthen his position.
"It's al-Maliki's chance to get what he wants. It's a chance for al-Maliki to force a better deal for himself," he said.
Al-Suneid said Bush accepted Iraq's position that a renewal of the U.N. mandate for the U.S.-led military force was conditional on swift action to hand full control of the Iraqi army to the Baghdad government and the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraqi cities and towns when the army is ready to take control.
Bush also agreed to set up a joint military operations room early next year that would give Iraqi authorities a say in the movement of U.S. and Iraqi troops, al-Suneid said. That is meant to head off unannounced raids like one Wednesday in Baghdad that targeted an alleged Shiite death squad leader.
Al-Maliki, who depends heavily on Shiite politicians whose parties have heavily armed militias, complained angrily about the U.S.-backed raid and demanded he be consulted before such operations in the future.
The United States said the death squad leader was on a preapproved list and the raid to capture him did not require specific Iraqi government approval. The man was not caught.
It was not clear whether al-Maliki's tough stance in recent days is a matter of conviction or a bid to bolster support among his domestic constituency — or both.
A joint statement issued after the video conference between al-Maliki and Bush said both sides "are committed to the partnership our two countries and two governments have formed and will work in every way possible for a stable, democratic Iraq and for victory in the war on terror."
It said the two sides agreed to form a working group "to make recommendations on how these goals can be best achieved." It will consist of the U.S. military commander, Gen. George Casey, Khalilzad and Iraq's national security adviser and ministers of defense and interior.
Al-Maliki has grown increasingly prickly as the Americans have pressed him to rein in Shiite militias and crush death squads that have sprung up since a Shiite shrine was bombed by Sunni insurgents in February. Thousands of Sunnis have died in revenge attacks, many under brutal torture.
The Sunnis, particularly disaffected insurgents, have fought back vigorously in a sectarian bloodbath verging on civil war.
The U.S. military on Saturday reported the combat death of a U.S. Marine in Anbar province, raising to 98 the number of U.S. personnel killed in October — the fourth deadliest month for American forces since the war began in March 2003.
Violence also returned to the capital after a relative five-day calm following the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
One person was killed and 35 wounded when a rocket slammed into an outdoor market in Baghdad's turbulent southern neighborhood of Dora, while a bomb in a minibus killed a second person and wounded nine in an eastern district, police said.
Police also found 10 bodies of victims of apparent sectarian violence — seven in several parts of Baghdad and three in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital.
Eleven other people were reported killed in shootings and bomb attacks nationwide.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

5:26 PM, October 28, 2006

 
Anonymous brw said...

Hi Nibras,

I agree that the publicizing of Maliki's supposed intentions to turn up the rhetoric isn't wise for obvious reasons. However, Maliki and co. may see it as a good move if they feel that the U.S. is going to end up forcing them out of office anyway, expecially if they feel that's going to happen through a coup.

One goal Maliki may have in mind from turning up the rhetoric during this crucial time period is to secure concessions from the U.S. which may lead him to entrench himself in power. Also, Maliki may want to get the U.S. off his back regarding the Shia militias and greater control over the security ministries. During this time period, he could turn a blind eye while giving the green light for the militias to strengthen themselves, while also letting them cultivate connections in the security ministries. As a result, if and when the U.S. decides to allow a coup, the security ministries may be fully in control by Maliki's supporters or his supporters may be strong enough to detect it or fight it off.

Just a thought. What's your take?

8:26 PM, October 30, 2006

 
Anonymous Antiquated Tory said...

Clearly what Iraq desperately needs is true statesmanship, leaders who can overcome the divides and gain the trust of the whole people. Just as clearly, Maliki doesn't fit the bill.

However, by what logic do you think that the US would welcome a coup? The one point that the US has stuck to throughout was that they were establishing a democracy. A coup would be extremely embarrassing, and in addition I can't imagine the American public wanting to spend another penny or cc of blood in supporting a military junta. If the Iraqi Army really wants to do this, and really believes they could keep their soldiers united in the face of competing loyalties, then for goodness' sake wait until we're out of the country.

6:51 AM, October 31, 2006

 
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