Sectarian strife is the worst it's been in many years—and Syria isn't helping
Sectarian strife is the worst it's been in many years—and Syria isn't helping.
Imagine a national leader dependent on American support, but who knows that the U.S. Ambassador has threatened that it will be withdrawn; who has heard Senators, and the French foreign minister, call for his removal; and who is referred to throughout the Western press as “weak and unreliable.” That man is not Hamid Karzai, who visits Washington this week. It was Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, three years ago. Yet Maliki has since transformed himself from reputed weakling to overbearing strong-man, even while being dependent on U.S. support.
It’s too soon to know what the newly-released results of Iraq’s March 7 national election will mean for that country—or for America’s national security. At first blush, the outcome seems dramatic: the coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has won fewer seats than the coalition of his rival and former prime minister Iyad Allawi. But that’s a far cry from saying that Allawi will govern Iraq.
In the late summer of 2007, Baghdad was buzzing with talk of a coup. Iraq was gripped by horrific civil war, and the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki seemed at best unable to do anything about it. (At worst he appeared guilty of contributing to sectarian violence himself.) In November, U.S. national security advisor Steve Hadley had returned from a visit with Maliki and reported grave doubts about the prime minister’s competence.
German magazine Der Spiegel caused quite a commotion this week by printing an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in which he endorsed Obama's Iraq plan by name. Some tried to downplay the significance of this endorsement by saying that Maliki had been misquoted by the magazine. But it turns out that Maliki actually got a copy of the interview before it was printed and had the option to make any changes.
It will be interesting to see how--and if--the candidates adapt their policies on Iraq to take into account Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's announcement this week that his government will work towards a negotiated timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. McCain, for one--despite his attempts yesterday to do dismiss the relevance of Maliki's statements to his Iraq policy--may have a big problem on his hands: As the folks over at Democracy Arsenal point out, the Arizona senator stated unequivocally in a 2004 Q&A session at the Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S.
It appears that George Bush has lower approval ratings (low-mid 30s) than hapless Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki (43 percent) [PDF p. 14] Although Maliki does occasionally seem the more competent of the two.... --Michael Crowley