Friday, August 24, 2007

PM Nouri al-Maliki

How long will he last? That is the question for the week of August 20th, as pot-shots and verbal barbs passed back and forth between the Iraqi Prime Minister and officials stateside.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois spoke out first, albeit tepidly, by saying that his opinion on the matter of political progress within Iraq was rather dim.
"While we believe that the “surge” is having measurable results, and has provided a degree of “breathing space” for Iraqi politicians to make the political compromises which are essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises. We were in Iraq both during the recent initial meeting of the Iraq Presidency Council, the Prime Minister and the President of the Kurdish region and during the immediately following expanded meeting, which were intended to reach political compromises. We would like to be optimistic that those meetings will lead to substantive progress, however -- given the performance of the Iraqi political leadership to date -- we remain extremely cautious in our expectations..."
Which was followed by the White House issuing statements reiterating that yes indeed, the President did stand by the government of PM al-Maliki. "Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him," said Bush.

Senator Clinton asked that al-Maliki be removed by the Iraqi Parliament as well.
"During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve, confirmed that the Iraqi Government’s failures have reinforced the widely held view that the Maliki government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders. I share Senator Levin’s hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks."
It wasn't the best of weeks for the embattled Prime Minister. Adding a bit of an edge to this story is the push to place Ayad Allawi to first in line for the PM position provided that al-Maliki gets the proverbial (and not the physical) axe. This action coming through a long-standing Republican lobbying firm. A carnival ride for sure, and these are only the items that the press has found out so far - there could still yet be more plays to be revealed.

Just the same, the PM had had quite enough of U.S. politicians predicting his demise. Onto the offensive, he spoke on Sunday with a tongue-lashing for those that oppose his tenure. At his press conference he quipped:
"There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses."
He also listed plenty more grievances towards the American occupational forces which are sure to play well to his Shiite base inside Iraq. PM al-Maliki still does not have a majority in Parliament by which to rule, so what does this situation get him?

Given that the American presence in Iraq is now opposed by a large majority of Iraqis, it might be helpful for him to be seen as a leader who is willing to stand up and denounce the Occupiers. He does not appear to be in a position of strength among many Iraqis, but he surely must be seen as more favorable then someone such as Allawi who has incredibly suspicious ties to the United States through his years with the CIA which helped fund his group the Iraqi National Accord.

So American politicians calling for Nouri al-Maliki's ouster may in turn yield a blip of support for the Prime Minister provided he can deftly handle the situation to his favor. But what of the Senators and pundits who ascribe the failings of the Iraqi experiment solely at the feet of al-Maliki? Is there someone better waiting in the wing that doesn't have a tainted background or direct sectarian albatross dangling around their neck?

Those pols in Iraq are few and far between, and it may be that no one person in Iraq exists that can keep the country together in the near or distant future. Those are the breaks when you induce civil war.

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