Saturday, July 28, 2007

Nouri al-Maliki Objects to Petraeus Policy of Arming Sunni Insurgents Against al-Qaida

Various news outlets are reporting that Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, detests Gen. David Petraeus and wants him gone. Here's how Damien McElroy described it in the UK Telegraph:

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country's prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.

Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general's moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa'eda.

One Iraqi source said Mr Maliki used a video conference with Mr Bush to call for the general's signature strategy to be scrapped. "He told Bush that if Petraeus continues, he would arm Shia militias," said the official. "Bush told Maliki to calm down."

At another meeting with Gen Petraeus, Mr Maliki said: "I can't deal with you any more. I will ask for someone else to replace you."

Phillip Carter sees no good options here, but still he's really steamed that Maliki is being such a pain in the butt about U.S. military policy in his country [emphasis mine]:
I've been saying this for some time, but I'll say it again: the Maliki government is rotten to its core. If there was any possibility for a peaceful transition of power, a way to get rid of Maliki, I'd jump at it. And I suspect the U.S. government would too. But the problem is that there will likely never be another Iraqi government after this one, at least not under the current Constitution, with the current political alignments where they're at. Other Shiite leaders like Ayad Allawi don't seem capable of forming a coalition, and firebrands like Moqtada al-Sadr don't seem to have the juice either. So if Maliki goes, we're f--ked. If he stays, we're also f--ked. If the U.S. deposes Maliki to reinstall an occupation headquarters to provide benevolent leadership for the country, we're also f--ked. It's really hard to see the road ahead right now.

I'll tell you one thing though — if Maliki wants more control over the Iraqi army, as this story says, I wouldn't give it to him. Last time the U.S. transitioned too much authority over MOI and MOD forces to the Iraqis, we got a sectarian bloodbath. Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker are right to give Maliki a healthy dose of tough love, and a swift kick in the ass every now and then. He may never get to where we want him to be, but we've got to bring him along anyway.

Matthew Yglesias has a different thought:
Maybe if the Prime Minister of Iraq doesn't like our commanding general in Iraq and wants us to stop arming Sunni groups, but the US government thinks our commanding general is a smart guy and we want to intensify the arming of Sunni groups that we ought to step back, take a deep breath, and decide to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

It would be ridiculous, after all, to sack an American general because Nouri al-Maliki wants us to. But it would also be ridiculous for an American general to be running around Iraq implementing policies contrary to those of the Iraqi government we're supposed to be supporting. The best solution is to shake hands and go our separate ways.

Common sense can be so disarming.

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