Is al Maliki long for the job? (update) Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Well this is certainly no "Good job, Brownie" is it?
President Bush pointedly declined Tuesday to offer a public endorsement of embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, expressing his disappointment at the lack of political progress in Iraq and saying that widespread popular frustration could lead Iraqis to replace their government.
"The fundamental question is: Will the government respond to the demands of the people?" Bush said. Stopping short of directly endorsing Maliki, as he has on several previous occasions, Bush continued, "If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government."
In apparent response to congressional calls for a change of leadership in Iraq, Bush added, "That's up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians."
Of course, when asked for clarification, the White House claimed it isn't withdrawing support from Maliki - that's the official line - but for those of us who've been watching Bush for 6+ years we can read between the lines.
Frankly I've come to the conclusion that Maliki isn't the man for the job, that he's been coopted by al Sadr and the Iranians and that as long as he's in the top spot, reconciliation will never happen. But that just my opinion.
What to do about all of that, of course, is the $64,000 question. And obviously, if Maliki steps down you want someone how will enable the reconciliation process, not someone who is actually worse.
The administration wants Maliki to find some accommodation with his political rivals, particularly the Sunnis, who feel disenfranchised by his Shiite-led government. It also wants him to make good on promises to disarm Shiite militias and show leadership on issues such as allowing former members of deposed president Saddam Hussein's now-banned Baath Party back into government jobs. Yet it is unclear whether Maliki has the capacity — or the will — to take such politically difficult steps.
Again, personal opinion, but I'm of the opinion that Maliki is incapable or unwilling (or both) to move these things along in a positive direction. To this point, given ample opportunities, he's given no indication they are a real priority to him.
What's your read on the guy? Is he the one for the job? Or is he actually more of a roadblock than a help?
I don’t enough about Maliki to judge his fitness. But I know that changing the leader is often a time to let go of some things from the past and make a fresh start.
If a new leader comes in with less baggage, and during a time of less violence, that might inject enough wiggle room to bring the sides together in a relatively more stable government. A fairly peaceful transition would also be a good precedent for the long term.
If there’s a change in leadership, no doubt the headlines will stress the uncertainty and problems that caused the change, but it’s worthwhile to note the positive aspects of any change as well.
Based on media reports, it appears Mr. Maliki has heard the complaints. His recent meetings during the August recess with Sunni leaders in Tikrit, Saddam’s former power base, and cooperating with Sadr’s Shia’ opposition, the Islamic Council, tells me that he realizes he must break the deadlock or possibly lose American support. As much as I dislike the Democratic position on Iraq, they do provide cover for President Bush to push Mr. Maliki into doing what is beneficial for the political aspects of the counterinsurgency. Well, maybe we DID learn something from Vietnam; supporting coups does not necessarily help your cause.
"What’s your read on the guy? Is he the one for the job?" - McQ
As you may recall, we did install a parliamentary democracy there at the point of a gun, with all the "majority rule" stuff that implies. The Mahdi Army and Moqtada Al Sadr have overwhelming support in the largest majority in Iraq - The Shia. They voted in their new democracy and Maliki is the Prime Minister because he formed a government with the support of the most popular leader of the largest voting block - Moqtada al-Sadar of the Shiites. Democracy in action. So ... unless we want to do undo the Democracy we installed, we are going to reap what we sowed. And, like it or not, what Moqtada al-Sadr thinks about Maliki is more relevant than what you or I or George Bush or Carl Levin or anyone else here thinks. This is what al-Sadr thinks:
On domestic Iraqi politics, Sadr said that Maliki’s days as Iraqi leader were coming to a close: "Al-Maliki’s government will not survive because he has proven that he will not work with important elements of the Iraqi people ... The prime minister is a tool for the Americans and people see that clearly." "It will probably be the Americans who decide to change him when they realise he has failed. We don’t have a democracy here, we have a foreign occupation."
FWIW - from wikipedia:
In 1980, the Saddam Hussein government sentenced al-Maliki to death for his active role in the Dawa party and thereafter he lived in exile, first in Iran and later in Syria. In Syria he headed the party’s Jihad Office, a branch responsible for directing activists and guerrillas fighting Saddam Hussein’s regime from outside Iraq. He was elected chairman of the Joint Action Committee, a Damascus-based opposition coalition that led to the founding of the Iraqi National Congress, a United States-backed body of opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime which the Dawa Party participated in between 1992 and 1995. Some foreign diplomats, responsible for maintaining links with the Iraqi opposition in Syria before the war, have maintained that al-Maliki was never more than a minor figure in the period before 2003.
So the prime minister of Iraq did not even live in Iraq for 23 years before we went in to present the Iraqi’s with the gift of Democracy, and as a side benefit, their Prime Minister Maliki (presumably back-up for first choice Chalabi). Any wonder that he is viewed as a caretaker, and a US proxy by the Iraq majority?
Now - we in the US don’t like the Mahdi Army, and we certainly don’t like their leader Moqtada Al-Sadr. But - They are not “Al Queda”. They are not Baathists or Sadaamites. They are not the people we went into Iraq to fight. They are, In fact, the very Iraqi’s, the exact oppressed religious sect that we presumably went in to Iraq to free from the yoke of Sadaam Hussein and present this gift of democracy.
The natural leadership in Iraq when we leave is Al Sadr and his followers, including those Iraqi’s in the Mahdi Army, which is apparently in the process of actually becoming the Iraqi Army (according to recent Michael Totten article). This is exactly the point I was trying to make in my post “The Face of Victory in Iraq”.
Sorry about the length of this. My blogger server is down this morning, so you get first draft of a post in progress.
Yes he’s a Shia; and they are the majority sect; a fact that has been ignored by most policy makers sometime between 80 and 365 years (If you factor in the Ottomans ) The reason persons like Maliki and Jaafari before him, and possibly Abdul Mehdi after him; Allawi doesn’t have a chance; is because the heart of Shia society was decimated from the late 70s when Saddam proscribed the Daawa into the 90s. Muqtada Sadr has the title by virtue of being the son and grandson of the martyred Sadr clan.
"The Mahdi Army and Moqtada Al Sadr have overwhelming support in the largest majority in Iraq - The Shia."
That is not exactly true. The two main Shia parties are Dawa and SICRI and Sistani is the major player. The Badr brigade joined the Iraqi army unlike Mahdi forces.
Also, if you look at most Shia parties you do see strong ties to Iran. Then again all of the Kurdish rebels who are so pro-American now also were pro-Iran and fought against Saddam in the Iran/Iraq war...just saying...
"Prime Minister Maliki’s a good guy, a good man with a difficult job and I support him," Bush said in a speech to military veterans.
He likes Vlad Putin, too.
Bush’s biggest shortcoming (and he has a slew of them) is his inability to judge people. That may be from his religious take on the adage "Judge not...", but making judgements is a major factor in our being humans, not animals.
Ok, I’ll withdraw the word "overwhelming" and substitute the word "strong". Absent a trustworthy poll, thats probably the best we can do.
I understand the applicability of your Kurd comparison, and basically agree with it.
I think we benefit if we look beyond the beards and turbans and look at a character like al-Sadr - not as a religious zealot - but a run of the mill 3rd world populist pol lusting for power. His alliances will be determined exclusively by his ambition. If Iran helps him get power - he’ll go to them. If the US helps him get power (or at least does not actively stand in the way of a Democratic victory for al-Sadr) he’ll work with us. That does not mean he will stop berating the US as an occupier or great satan or whatever he is calling us these days. Standard populist fare playing to his base. Think John Edwards / mortgage foreclosure/ fortress investment. What a populist says has nothing in common with what he actually does. Same with Sadr. If we don’t get in the way of his ambition, we can work with him. Maybe we can even extract a commitment to respect the democratic process. If he gets what he needs from us, he won’t need Iran. I doubt he wants to be their client any more than he wants to be ours. The way to avoid either for Sadr or any Iraqi leader, is play us off against each other.