Saturday :: Oct 28, 2006

Al-Maliki Has Bush By The Shorthairs

by Steve

No matter how the White House spins its relationship with Baghdad, it is now clear that the Iraqis have so little respect for Bush and his team that they feel they can roll them. After Bush rushed to put together a conference call with the prime minister today to maintain the fiction that both are on the same page, al-Maliki felt strong enough to not only cut off Zalmay Khalilzad’s legs for good, but to also have an aide put the word out that he was using Bush’s domestic political weakness to roll the White House for the best possible deal he can get for himself. Think about that for a moment: the Iraqis are taking advantage of Bush’s weakness here at home to get a timetable of their choosing, rather than listen to any more drivel from the administration about us imposing one on them.

There’s one reason why al-Maliki can get away with this, and it’s because they feel they now have the stronger hand in the negotiations. They know that Bush will do anything between now and November 7th to maintain the fiction that he is in control, and his plan is working in Iraq. When the White House tried to spin the American public last week that they were now pushing for the Iraqis to improve their commitment to their own security, they apparently didn’t think the Iraqis would call their bluff and turn the tables on them. The Bush White House wrote a check they could not cash: they acted as if the Iraqis needed us more than we needed them. But after our ambassador and General George Casey dictated terms to al-Maliki last week and made him look publicly like our puppet, al-Maliki suddenly got savvy real fast on American politics and realized that Bush needed him more than he needed Bush. With Muqtada al-Sadr looming over his shoulders, and seeing the Americans tell him the biggest problem was the Shiite militias instead of Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents, the Bush Administration blundered their way right into al-Maliki’s hands. Not only has al-Mailiki rebuked our ambassador for his condescending attitude towards the Iraqi government, but he has put Bush on notice that he will dictate the time line for American troop withdrawals and not us.

But why can al-Maliki now get away with this, aside from his astute assessment about the political problems Bush is facing? Because Bush will never use the only club he has over al-Maliki: Bush has boxed himself into a corner and will never withdraw immediately, as he is saying once again to the cultists today. Al-Maliki wants us there about six months until he feels the Shiite militias can deal with the Sunni insurgents and forestall an all-out civil war. Bush and Cheney want to be there forever, as long as there is oil. So al-Maliki knows he has the upper hand. But the one thing al-Maliki doesn’t want is for us to leave immediately and have him preside over the civil war without our troops acting as policemen. And yet such a threat is the only club Bush has left, but al-Maliki knows that Bush will never play that card.

Steve :: 6:08 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!