In response to Senator Carl Levin’s call for the Iraqi prime minister’s ouster and President Bush’s expression of “frustration,” Nouri al-Maliki’s response was blunt:
“No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people,” he said at a press conference in Damascus at the end of a three-day visit to Syria.
“Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere,” al-Maliki said.
After a recent trip to Tehran and while now being welcomed by President Bashar Assad, Maliki had no need to name the friends he is courting. And the more alienated he becomes from Washington, the more appealing it might seem to forge a Sunni-Shia alliance that unites Iraq, Iran, and Syria. That nightmare scenario is going to precipitate some serious back-peddling from Washington, but in the end geography is likely to be the decisive factor. 2000km of shared borders is a reality that Washington can’t change — unless that is, the partitionists win. But that’s an option about which even Cheney long ago made clear his skepticism.