Maliki Played It Well
Maliki’s snub was not directed at President Bush—it was rather aimed at Jordan’s King Abdullah. The media covering the summit chose to get it wrong and blamed the 'Hadley memo' for Maliki’s rebuff when they should have been paying more attention to Abdullah’s recent provocative actions that led up to the meeting. Abdullah had met with Harith al-Dhari a couple of days after the firebrand pro-al-Qaeda Sunni preacher had called upon Arab states and the UN to withdraw their official recognition of the Baghdad government. Then Abdullah met with Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, Tariq al-Hashemi and Ayad Allawi in rapid succession. These royal side-meetings with Iraqi leaders prior to the summit were designed to undermine Maliki’s assertion that he’s the top dog in Iraq—something that the imminent meeting with Bush would have reaffirmed.
After al-Dhari’s photo-op with King Abdullah, Maliki’s coterie of advisors feverishly argued for and against choosing a venue other than Amman for the summit. They wanted their resentment over Abdullah’s meddling in Iraqi affairs to be made obvious without canceling the summit. Some Iraqi politicians had already made a big hoopla over the Abdullah-Dhari meeting and were saying unflattering things about Maliki's sense of manly honor on local Iraqi TV networks. Maliki's team allegedly sought counsel from an external source that advised them to go to Amman but to scrap the proposed three-way meeting between Maliki, Bush and Abdullah that had been scheduled for Wednesday evening. This was indeed what they did, thus foiling Abdullah’s ambitious three-point plan to link the delivery of regional goodwill on Iraq to jumpstarting Arab-Israeli negotiations, acting as midwife to a ‘National Salvation’ government that would involve Allawi, and brokering a better deal on behalf of the Sunnis. This plan was supposed to raise Jordan’s profile in the Middle East and make the regime there more useful for America’s goals beyond intelligence-sharing in the war on terror. Jordan already gets hundreds of millions of dollars in aid annually from the United States.
Abdullah’s plan failed, and he was shut out from the Bush-Maliki tête-à-tête on Thursday morning. By all accounts, the meeting went very well. Abdullah ended-up disappointing Iraq’s Sunnis and making Allawi look foolish, as well as fumbling Jordan’s role in the peace process. Some royal advisor needs to get his ass fired.