Is Maliki an Iranian "Puppet" or an American "Puppet"?
Whereas many western Iraq-watchers keep pushing the line that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is beholden to Iran and to Iran's acolytes within the UIA coalition, the Iranians seem to think the opposite: Maliki and the Iraqis now in charge are too beholden to the Americans, according to this interesting Associated Press report.
I can't vouch for the report, but the gist of it holds true to what I've been arguing for a while: Iran's influence in Iraq has been eclipsed through Maliki's recent actions.
Maliki is coming into his own; he's no one's puppet. Maliki is even exploring the possibility of launching his own political coalition that would be independent of the UIA, according to several sources.
Quick note on Basra: Certain facts have been revealed to me that indicate that the Fadhila Party, which controls the governor's office in Basra, has been enabled and oriented all along by the British down there. For example, it seems that while the Iraqi government had issued an arrest warrant for Isma'il al-Wa'ili, the governor's brother, on charges ranging from oil smuggling to extortion, Britain found it appropriate to invite him over to London and set him up in a fancy hotel for 10 days last month. Al-Wa'ili was taken around to meet with all sorts of high-ranking British officials. And contrary to what was reported earlier about an Emirati handover of al-Wa'ili to Iraqi authorities, the fugitive been hiding out in Kuwait all along.
Another interesting and related rumor has it that a British official has been lobbying on behalf of Sheikh Sabah al-Sa'idi, the head of the Public Integrity Committee in parliament and a member of the Fadhila Party, to get his own arrest warrant annulled. Al-Sa'idi is being charged with oil smuggling too.