White House Still Loves Maliki

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 12:38 PM

Members of Congress and even senior military officers are coming to the same depressing conclusion: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is incapable of leading the kind of political reconciliation that the increased U.S. military commitment in Iraq is supposed to be making possible.

So what is the White House doing about Maliki? Desperately propping him up.

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "Declaring the government of Iraq 'non-functional,' the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days. . . .

"[Sen. Carl M.] Levin's statement, the most forceful call for leadership change in Iraq from a U.S. elected official, comes as about two dozen lawmakers are traveling to Iraq during Congress's August break."

Weisman continues: "White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the administration continues to believe that 'Prime Minister Maliki and the Presidency Council will be able to get this important work done.'

"Despite their deepening concerns about Maliki's leadership flaws, U.S. officials also believe that any new prime minister would confront the same obstacles in trying to broker political reconciliation."

Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti write in the New York Times: "Mr. Levin said that in his view, the political stalemate in Iraq could be attributed to Mr. Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials who were unable to operate independently of religious and sectarian leaders. . . .

"Mr. Levin and [Republican Senator John] Warner are among their respective parties' most esteemed legislators on national security issues. Their committee will be among those hearing directly from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker when the two men deliver their report measuring military and political progress in Iraq next month. A White House spokesman said Monday that the Capitol Hill testimony could be expected on Sept. 11 or 12.

"Mr. Warner did not explicitly call for the removal of the Maliki government. But he joined Mr. Levin in a joint statement that, while noting some success under the current troop increase in improving the security situation in Iraq, was tempered by a grim assessment of political progress.

"'While we believe that the "surge" is having measurable results, and has provided a degree of "breathing space" for Iraqi politicians to make the political compromises which are essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises,' the joint statement said."

Yochi J. Dreazen and Greg Jaffe write in the Wall Street Journal that although some senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq "say Mr. Maliki is starting to take small steps needed to build a multisectarian state, or at least should be given more time, a growing number of officers say they are concerned the current U.S. strategy of 'surging' troops into Baghdad and its environs won't produce lasting gains unless he is replaced.

"Army Chief of Staff George Casey, who spent several days last week meeting with top U.S. regional commanders here, said he was taken aback by the intensity of anti-Maliki sentiment among senior U.S. officers. 'I heard more people talk about Maliki not making it through his full term in two days than I had heard in all of my previous time here,' Gen. Casey said. 'There's a frustration with his inability to be a reconciliation leader, and a fear that the momentum generated by the surge could just be frittered away.' . . .

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