When will we finally take no for an answer? In December, Bush administration officials began talking about a surge of U.S.troops to Baghdad to create the military conditions for political reconciliation. Such an effort, they said, would only succeed if Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki reached courageously across sectarian lines, disarming the Shia militias that buttress his government and sharing political power with Iraq’s beleaguered Sunnis. “If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises,” President Bush declared when he unveiled the surge plan to the nation, “it will lose the support of the American people.”
And, since December, here’s what Maliki has done: First, his aides told reporters that he didn’t want any more U.S. troops in Baghdad. To the contrary, he wanted all U.S. troops out of Iraq’s capital. Maliki, it turned out, had a plan of his own. Iraqi troops would attack Sunni insurgents only, while ignoring the Shia militias. In other words, in a city increasingly cleansed of Sunnis and run by Moqtada Al Sadr’s brutal Mahdi army, Maliki would hasten the job.
American officials threatened and cajoled, and Maliki supposedly backed down. But, at a January 11 press conference where he was expected to endorse Bush’s surge, Maliki didn’t show up. Instead, a spokesman told the press that Iraq’s government “will not stand against it” before adding that “what is suitable for our conditions inIraq is what we decide, not what others decide for us.”