August 17, 2007

Maliki Tries Statesmanship

Nouri al-Maliki has come under a torrent of criticism in Congress, even among supporters of the war effort in Iraq, as too ineffectual and sectarian to create the kind of political reform necessary to stabilize his nation. The Iraqi Prime Minister has had a number of embarrassing resignations from his government, calling into question whether he has enough pull to make any progress towards the benchmarks set by an impatient US government. Given all that, his critics will likely be shocked at his latest move -- a direct and personal appeal to Sunni tribal leaders:

Iraq's prime minister, a Shiite, flew to Saddam Hussein's hometown Friday and told Sunni tribal chieftains that all Iraqis must unite in the fight to crush al-Qaeda in Iraq and extremist Shiite militias "to save our coming generations."

With the U.S. Congressional majority increasingly antsy to get out of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki's bold incursion into Tikrit — a city once pampered by Saddam, its favorite son — underlined the prime minister's determination to save his paralyzed government from collapse and prevent further disillusionment in Washington.

The sharp alteration of political course — a willingness to travel to the belly of the Sunni beast and talk with former enemies — suggested a new flexibility from the hardline religious Shiite.

"There is more uniting us than dividing us," he told sheiks in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. "We do not want to allow al-Qaeda and the militias to exist for our coming generations. Fighting terrorism gives us a way to unite."

Maliki didn't stop there. He made what looks to be a clean break with Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday, signing an accord with the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The coucil commands the Badr Brigade, which has fought Sadr's forces in the south for control. Maliki apparently has co-opted them into the government, isolating Sadr even further than ever after the radical cleric pulled his ministers from Maliki's government.

Opposing Sadr will help build trust with Sunni leadership. They have bitterly complained about security efforts being focused on Sunnis while Sadr's Mahdi Army continues to operate against Sunnis in mixed sectarian populations. If Maliki has broken with Sadr, then the Sunnis will have an opening to flex some political muscle. And with the effort of General Petraeus and the American forces in western and central Iraq, the unity and purpose of those Sunni tribes can work to Maliki's benefit with recalcitrant Shi'ites.

The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam's former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he's mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.


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Comments (16)

Posted by Bennett | August 17, 2007 5:15 PM

Maliki said: "There is more uniting us than dividing us," he told sheiks in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. "We do not want to allow al-Qaeda and the militias to exist for our coming generations. Fighting terrorism gives us a way to unite."

I hope this message finds a more receptive audience in Iraq than it does in this country. Fighting terrorism hasn't done a whole lot to unite us. And yes, I know that many would argue that the Iraq War is what really divides us and that was never about fighting terrorism and that there aren't really any terrorists there or they are only there because we got there first and will leave when we do. But that doesn't seem to be Maliki's message. Presumably he knows at least a little something about terrorism in Iraq.

Posted by anon | August 17, 2007 5:51 PM

we don't immediately feel the effects of terrorism or the fight against it in western nations.

presumably fighting terrorism will unite Iraqis more than it does us because their children are the casualties if they do not unite.

Posted by Ray | August 17, 2007 5:57 PM

This is a good development and I hope the Iraqi's listen to him.

Posted by patrick neid | August 17, 2007 6:19 PM

i can't put my finger on this guy. kissing up to iran one day and the next breaking with sadr. all i know is, i would "trust but verify" with this guy all day long. he's just a little too cozy with iran knowing full well they are killing iraqis and americans on a daily basis.

i miss the guy no one likes---Allawi, the interim prime minister. most of the programs he became unpopular for are now the standard operating procedures in iraq.

Posted by MarkJ | August 17, 2007 7:18 PM

We'll see what happens. However this is the kind of news which can only be greeted with general lamentation, gnashing of teeth, and self-mutilation by the denizens of Kosmania (not to mention most Democrats).

Imagine what Petraeus may be able to truthfully state next month:

Military situation: long and tough days still ahead, but significantly improved from last year. Al Qaeda rapidly losing support among the populace and getting whacked on a daily basis.

Political situation: also not perfect, but much better, with increasing cooperation between all parties concerned. Real hope for unity and reconcilation.

Point, set, match. After a report like that, Democrats who retain any residual sanity will back away from "retreat and defeat" faster than Bubba talked his way into Monica's thong.

Posted by Colin | August 17, 2007 7:21 PM


It's not a matter of likes and dislikes when it comes to Allawi. Iraq has a representative form of government, and Allawi had no real constituency. He ran in opposition to the Religious Shia parties. The won the majority of the parliamentary seats, they get to form a coalition and a government from that coalition. That's the way it works. Hopefully, in future elections, other blocs will form, gain constitutiencies, and coalesce to form better governments, but at least Maliki is a damn sight better than his predecessor, Ibrahim Jafaari. Now he was a REAL stooge of the Iranians!

Posted by Rovin | August 17, 2007 7:24 PM

Maliki may have recieved a subliminal message from Petraeus a few months back along the lines of "get your short term "what can I do for me" attitude and shove it up your a**"

Maliki may have also realized that if Petraeus fails because of any action (or inaction) on the PM's part, Maliki will be the first to be first in line for the "last supper".

But don't look for many of our friends on the left for much support. They are as invested in failure as the hedge-funders are in the markets.

Momentum for a positive outcome seems to be the case here. If we could swing a portion of the world opinion in the right direction---al-Qaeda deminished to a marginal bug bite---perhap a semblance of stability will come to pass.

Posted by Jim C | August 17, 2007 7:24 PM


Did you really have to go with that mental image... Monica in a thong... Ewww! That being said, this is great news. The next step is to start seeing the Maliki government whacking on Sadr and his forces. We need to start seeing significant military action against Sadr and his forces, and start seeing Sadr's lackies thrown out of the ministries.

In the end, I wouldn't mind seeing Sadr on a slab... with a toe tag.

Jim C

Posted by Carol Herman | August 17, 2007 7:40 PM

Okay. Maliki is "trying." His real enemies are the Saud's. And, what you see, here, is some realization, that the KURDS are holding back, still. Since they'll join up ONLY if there's an obvious winner, between the two religious fighting factions, of Shi'a, and Sunni.

Shi'a and Sunni are like water an oil. They'll never really be working partners.

I'll put my money down that we're in this for the long haul. And, not necessarily with Maliki. I think Guiliani was BRILLIANT! He laid it out. IF he wins; and is president, you better bet your bippy; that President Guiliani is not going to let the Iraqis "pick" a religious/Islamist ticket in 2009. Won't fly.

Probably won't fly with Patraeus, either. And, Maliki's had SCREAMING MATCHES with the General.

Sadly for Irak, (JUST AS IT WAS FOR JAPAN, following WW2) The inbred "ruling class" thought they'd write the Constitution. Boy. Did General Douglas MacArthur show them a thing or two. First off, he tossed what the "ruling class had written," INTO THE GARBAGE.

Douglas MacArthur, then sat down with a legal pad, and wrote out Japan's Constitution.

The fist thing the PEOPLE were told to vote on, was a choice between killing adulterous MEN AND WOMEN, unlike the "custom," where only the women died, when she got caught cheating on her husband.

MacArthur was fair. He really gave the public a choice. BOTH. Or, neither. (People picked "neither." Which doesn't surprise me. But it was the first time the Japanese people were even consulted. For 700 years they lived like savages. Under the thumbs of their rulers.) They had to learn a lot. In a hurry. After they were devastated by loss in WW2. WORKED OUT JUST FINE.

Meanwhile, MacArthur LIVED in Japan for FIVE YEARS. Truman tried to call him back. For "parades." Truman was a real bastard. He'd meet his match, in 1952, when Eisenhower chose to run on the GOP ticket. And, Trumen, knew, then, it was time to leave the White House.

At some point? Maliki is gonna have to leave his palace. But he ran against Bush as much as he could. And, the Iraqis aren't in the mood to hand real estate to the Saud's.

Now? Or the Islamists! Irak isn't looking to become Iran. Those poor Iranians. You have no idea.

Posted by dhunter | August 17, 2007 7:54 PM

Perhaps Malaki has been shown enough by Petreaus and his own visits to Iran to know that if the Democrats are successful in forcing Americas surrender in Iraq, Iraq will become a wholey owned subsidiary of Iran and/or AlQueada leaving his homeland subject to years of brutality and subjagation.

Maybe Malaki should visit the US Congress with Petreaus and teach the white flag wavers here the same. We are witnessing an Iraqi population tired of brutality and lots braver then the bedwetters in the US congress and their allies in the MSM who are already attacking the Petraeus report as bogus.

If Iran owns Iraq then we have no choice but to turn them to glass else Israel ceases to exist, and none of us will be able to afford to drive to work.

Posted by Bullshark | August 17, 2007 8:01 PM

Ha, a Iraqi Shite politician goes to Tikrit and an American Democrat Pol can't go on Fox News. Truly a sad day for America!

Posted by patrick neid | August 17, 2007 8:02 PM


what part of this didn't you understand

"i miss the guy no one likes---Allawi, the interim prime minister. most of the programs he became unpopular for are now the standard operating procedures in iraq."

duh. he only got 14% of the vote because no one liked his programs. programs, as i mentioned, that are now being used in iraq. that's why i miss him. i think the iraqis made a huge mistake with jafari and now maliki. a mistake in the sense it will take longer to get where they need to be. these were compromise candidates so the revenge killings could continue. calling it representative government at this point is a stretch, akin to saying we should give money to hamas because they were democratically elected. what we have is a tribunal of tribes, better than saddam to be sure, but a long way from representative government.

i trust we will get there at some point.

that said, i don't trust maliki. but we shall see. although, as long as he is killing bad guys i have no problems with him.

Posted by Lightwave | August 17, 2007 8:08 PM

"Maliki didn't stop there. He made what looks to be a clean break with Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday, signing an accord with the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The coucil commands the Badr Brigade, which has fought Sadr's forces in the south for control. Maliki apparently has co-opted them into the government, isolating Sadr even further than ever after the radical cleric pulled his ministers from Maliki's government."

The fact is Maliki should have done this from the beginning. The Sadrist bloc brought nothing but divisive hatred to the government of Iraq.

The real shame is while Maliki has cut Sadr out of the government completely now, he won't get any credit for it from the Democrats. They'll still assume that the government, like the rest of Iraq, is doomed to failure.

Posted by Peggy Snow Cahill | August 17, 2007 9:58 PM

Didn't I read something recently about Australia's John Howard rebuking Maliki and threatening to pull out the Aussie troops if Maliki didn't shape up? Wonder if that is part of his change of heart...? Afraid everyone is going to leave him holding the bag?

Posted by Carol Herman | August 17, 2007 11:19 PM

Maliki lived in exile during Saddam's reign. He only came back in (with other exiles), when our military pushed Saddam out.

Unfortunately, between the State Department; and probably what the Saud's thought they could get from Bush, we've been treading water.

Meanwhile, Maliki, who did NOT live in Irak, during Saddam's time (as I just said!) ... Lived for ten years in Tehran. And, then for 10 years in Damascus.

When the Iraqis voted they didn't want to touch the CIA, or State Department "picks." So Allawi was GONE. ANd, ditto for the billionnaire, Chalabi. (Well, gone from the "top chair" that is.)

Meanwhile Maliki has had his fights with Bush. AND, real screaming matches with Patraeus. If anything's made Maliki change, however, it is a terrible fear of Patraeus.

No complaints from me.

These' "despots for life" see the pot of gold in Irak. The people so far? Held back for so long by Saddam, are actually coming round.

Patraeus is not killing civilians. There's a strong outreach from our military; that's been there from the beginning. Even when the civilians were helping the Al-Kay-Duh guys plant the IED's.

Too bad for the civilians, the fighting between the home grown Shi'a, then aided by Iran AND syria! Killed lots of civilians. And, this has turned the tables on Maliki.

That he sees the parliament of bed wetters? Yup. That he may surmise the Bonkeys are holding the weaker hand? I'd bet this is true.

That the media doesn't play fair? Haven't. In ages.

But whatever Maliki's shortcomings; he's not stupid. And, he's not the CIA's "man." Nor does he like the Saud's.

Our worst behaviors have been with the Saud's. Going back to when England and France created this monster.

They spend millions a minute funding their rat-hovel mosques.

Can this backfire?

Well, I certainly hope so!

To me, Dubai is the "joke." The Saud's are all bastards. Not Irak. The potential to make Irak run well, is there. BUT NOT IF THE ISLAMISTS STEAL IT, FIRST.

It's a good thing the Kurds have isolated themselves, off.

It's even a good thing that the tribal crap has made sure Al-Kay-DUh's terrorists could kill a lot of them off.

And, it's a good thing, too, to see that in America, people are coming round to giving our military the chance they need, and the time they need, to succeed.

Should make for an interesting year; as we go through our own political process, picking the guy who comes into the presidency, next.

Posted by Terry Gain | August 18, 2007 6:43 AM

At the beginning of the Surge Maliki authorized the arrest of 600 members of the Mahdi army. About two months ago he gave an inspiring speech thanking America for its sacrifices in Iraq ( sorry I do not have the link or time to find it).

I think the situation in Iraq is more complicated than we acknowledge. It is after all a war zone. It's frustrating that no American reporter, especially one sympathetic to the liberation, has done an in -depth interview of Maliki. We might then have a bettter understanding of the rationale behind his decisions.

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