Day By Day

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cutting Through the Spin

Just what the Hell is Iraqi PM Maliki up to with his semi-ambiguous statements on American troop withdrawals? I have suggested in the past that he is simply, and quite rightly, trying to establish his nationalist credentials in Iraq and is relatively unconcerned with what effect his statements have on American opinion. Robert H. Reid of the AP has a better take. He argues that Maliki is taking advantage of the American election to pressure U. S. officials for concessions in ongoing negotiations over the nature and scope of America's continuing presence in Iraq.

AMMAN, Jordan -- The Iraqi prime minister's seeming endorsement of Barack Obama's troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad's strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America's military mission.

The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there.

It also is designed to refurbish the nationalist credentials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his political survival to the steadfast support of President Bush. Now, an increasingly confident Iraqi government seems to be undermining long-standing White House policies on Iraq.


A top al-Maliki adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, insisted the Iraqi government does not intend to be "part of the electoral campaign in the United States."

But that is precisely what the Iraqis intended to do: exploit Obama's position on the war to force the Bush administration into accepting concessions considered unthinkable a few months ago.

Read the whole thing here.

As frustrating as this must be to some in Washington, what Maliki is doing is quite proper. Iraqi national and regional interests are not necessarily congruent with those of the U. S. and as head of state Maliki is standing up for his nation's interest. This has infuriated some pundits who feel that the Iraqis should do Washington's bidding. But that is to misunderstand what the Iraq war was all about. It was never an imperial venture, no matter how strongly left-wing critics might insist it was. It was a war of liberation, and it is altogether right and proper that a liberated Iraqi government should have as its first concern Iraqi interests.