Bush Will Speed Turn-over of Security Responsibilities
Maliki Skipped Weds. Banquet, Snubs Bush over Memo
Bush will speed the transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, it was announced at their summit in Amman. Al-Maliki has been pressing Washington for some time to give him the authority to order much bigger battle units into action without securing permission first from the US military. The PM has been frustrated that he isn’t allowed to set security policy but then is blamed for not achieving security. He also assured Bush that he can handle the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army militia. The Sadrists in parliament suspended their membership in protest against al-Maliki’s meeting with Bush. In an ordinary parliamntary system, al-Maliki would be considered a minority PM and might well lose a vote of no confidence. But Iraq actually seems to be run as an oligarchy, and too many of the major politicians now live in London to permit ordinary politics to play out.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki actually blew off US President George W. Bush and Jordanian King Abdullah II on Wednesday, declining to show up at a scheduled formal banquet! Talks between him and Bush have been postponed until today.
Bush talked to Abdullah II on a bilateral basis on Wednesday, and will meet one on one with Maliki today.
The no-show was presumably Maliki’s protest against the highly critical memo of US National Security Council adviser Stephen Hadley about Maliki, leaked to the New York Times and published on Wednesday. Maliki needn’t have bothered. Informed experts find the memo mediocre at best and wholly impractical at worst. I have to say I was shocked at Hadley’s lack of understanding of the parliamentary system in which Maliki works, such that his government could easily fall.
Some have also speculated that Maliki minded discussing bilateral US-Iraqi affairs with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the room, and was annoyed at the Jordanian monarch’s attempt to insert the Israeli-Palestinian issue into the talks.
Maliki may also have intended to show he was his own man, in the face of heavy criticism from the Sadr Movement members of parliament and of his own cabinet. Some 32 members of parliament loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suspended their membership in the legislature at 6 pm on Wednesday, and the 5 Sadrist cabinet members also resigned contingently.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Shiite cleric and leader of the largest bloc in parliament, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, also met Wednesday with King Abdullah II. But after the meeting, al-Hakim, head of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was quoted as having said that if Iraq went to all-out sectarian civil war, the Sunni Arabs would be the losers. This belligerant threat provoked consternation among observers, presumably because it had been hoped that al-Hakim’s meeting with a neighboring Sunni monarch was aimed at improving relations with Sunni Arabs.
Al-Zaman also notes that Iyad Allawi has flown to Amman [from London, where he now mostly resides along with many other Iraqi politicians]. The head of the Iraqi National List and formerly an appointed prime minister, a Shiite with a Baathist past, Allawi has been marginalized in Iraqi politics but still has patrons in Washington.