OpinionIran in the World PressIraqi premier stirs discontent, yet hangs on

Iraqi premier stirs discontent, yet hangs on

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New York Times: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has lost the support of the largest Shiite, Sunni and secular parties in Parliament. Some American officials privately describe him as a paranoid failure, while his only recent success has been a meeting on Saturday with senior Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders. It yielded little more than promises of future compromise. The New York Times

By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: August 19, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug. 18 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has lost the support of the largest Shiite, Sunni and secular parties in Parliament. Some American officials privately describe him as a paranoid failure, while his only recent success has been a meeting on Saturday with senior Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders. It yielded little more than promises of future compromise.

And yet, Mr. Maliki remains.

That appears to be, in part, because neither the Americans nor the Iraqis can agree on who is supposed to lead. In the absence of a strong alternative to Mr. Maliki, both camps have come to rely on a game of criticize and run. The Americans bash him, then say it is up to the Iraqis to decide what to do. The Iraqis call him a sectarian incompetent, then say they are waiting for the Americans to stop acting as his patron.

The latest salvo came Saturday from the American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker. Traveling with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, Mr. Crocker acknowledged that the public’s frustration with the government was “pretty striking.”

He noted that there was as much anger within the government as outside, on the streets.

But the Americans, he said, would not respond to that pressure anytime soon. When asked whether the Americans might push for a change of leadership, he said, “That’s a discussion the Iraqis have to have.”

According to the Constitution, either the president or one-fifth of the 275-member Parliament can make a no-confidence motion. Then an absolute majority vote would mean the administration had been “resigned.”

Mr. Maliki established an alliance this week between Iraq’s two Kurdish parties, his Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Party. But the four do not control a majority in Parliament; if every other member voted against Mr. Maliki, a no-confidence proposal would pass.

Still, Mr. Crocker noted that removal only raised another question: “Then what do you do?”

The two most discussed alternatives to Mr. Maliki are Adel Abdul-Mehdi, the Shiite vice president, and Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister. Each has attracted American and Iraqi opposition; Mr. Abdul-Mehdi for his close ties to Iran; Mr. Allawi for his increasingly distant ties to Iraq. He spends much of his time in Jordan. Mr. Crocker, when asked about Mr. Allawi, said he only spoke to people who actually came to Iraq.

A few Iraqi politicians have already begun to look elsewhere. Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite lawmaker close with aides to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said this week that she had approached several people outside the known officials and asked them to campaign as potential prime ministers. All refused, she said, declining to name them. “They don’t want to be dirtied,” she said.

More commonly, Iraqi politicians complain that they are not able to replace Mr. Maliki until the Americans signal strong opposition and identify a replacement. For many in the Iraqi political class, the meetings between Mr. Maliki and the other leaders, which are scheduled to continue, represent the government’s last chance to prove itself to a patron that might soon waver.

Everyone, said Qasim Dawood, a Shiite lawmaker, is waiting on the Americans. “From one side, they interfere in everything they want,” he said. “Then on the other side, they say, ‘Sorry, you are a sovereign country, you have to do it yourself.’ ”

James Glanz contributed reporting.

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