Wednesday, November 29, 2006


The highly anticipated trilateral meeting between President Bush, the Jordanian King and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, took an odd turn today. The Iraqi PM was a no-show, meeting earlier with the Jordanian King and apparently snubbing the President. The President and Prime Minister will meet tomorrow. The official White House explanation is this:

“Since the King of Jordan and the prime minister had a bilateral themselves earlier today, everyone believed that it negated the purpose of the three of them to meet tonight together in a trilateral setting,” White House adviser Dan Bartlett told reporters traveling with Bush.

However, such a meeting would still have been beneficial, so what really happened?

Earlier today the infamous leakers at the New York Times posted a classified memo by Bush National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley which was critical of al-Maliki’s ability to control the sectarian violence in Iraq. (the memo in its entirety can be read HERE) In part, the leaked memo said:

-Do we (U.S.) and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq?

-In my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so.

-Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government.

-His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. While this memo is a totally legitimate critique of the Prime Minister, it must embarrass and perhaps anger the good PM. This appears to be another attempt in a string of many by the communistic New York Times to purposely thwart the Bush administration. Why leak a private classified memo? Why now? Why at all? The answer is obvious: to continue to chip away at the war effort in Iraq. This time, however, the angle was to divide and conquer by placing the U.S. and Iraq at an awkward and difficult juncture.

Another possibility for the Iraqi Prime Minister’s no-show to the three way meeting could be due to the 30 parliamentarians loyal to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who vowed to leave their positions altogether, threatening the stability of the Iraqi government. The original condition was that if al-Maliki, whose constituency has a large portion from al-Sadr followers, met with Bush in Jordan for the summit, they would boycott the government. Now it appears the boycott may not be permanent, but significant nonetheless.

“We are sticking to our position…. The boycott is still valid,” Falih Hassan, a Sadrist legislator, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Bush is a criminal who killed a lot of Iraqis and we do not want him to interfere in Iraq’s affairs. The Iraqi government should negotiate with the U.N. Security Council, not with the leader of the country that is occupying Iraq.”

This of course puts PM al-Maliki in a difficult position.

My sources in Baghdad, Iraq, who are Christian and therefore neither Shia nor Sunni, believe al-Maliki is a good man, but that he is surrounded by “evil and selfish” people in the parliament, and that they are the problem. “They” are the members of the government who are involved in the boycott.

If al-Maliki indeed skipped the trilateral meeting with President Bush today because he deemed it redundant, so be it. If it is because he is offended by the contents of the memo, damned be the New York Times. If it is because of the parliamentary walkout, this will work itself out. Just as with the first round of elections in Iraq back in 2004-05, the participants who sat it out realized they were more empowered through the political process than by foregoing their representation. If this current parliament needs to be reestablished, that could also be positive.

To be continued…….

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