Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, reluctantly thrust three years ago into a job few expected him to hold onto, arrives in Washington this week as a transformed leader — with widening popularity among Iraqis, grudging respect of some political foes and a more even footing with his U.S. hosts.
The quiet former Arabic-literature scholar has demonstrated surprising resilience, establishing himself as Iraq’s first national leader since Saddam Hussein. His three years of consistent leadership, a prospect that initially seemed remote, augurs more stability for Iraq as U.S. involvement diminishes.
Though he still faces formidable problems at home, Mr. Maliki is positioning himself as the person capable of moving Iraq beyond the security concerns that have consumed the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In meetings Wednesday with President Barack Obama and other officials, he will seek foreign investment and stronger ties to the U.S. in education, culture and trade. [continued…]
When American troops pulled out of Iraqi cities this month they did not realise quite how final their departure would be. The Iraqi military has since barred them from re-entering areas they previously controlled and all but locked them out of towns and cities.
US convoys can no longer pass through checkpoints in Baghdad without prior approval and an Iraqi escort. American night-time raids in pursuit of insurgents have also been curtailed by Iraqi officials who gained the right to veto all such missions on July 1.
In several cases, the Iraqis took action themselves; in others the suspected insurgents slipped away. [continued…]