IN OTHER WORDS: Maliki’s retort

Even if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki received encouragement from the Bush administration to excoriate Democratic senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin for saying he should be replaced, his complaint against American politicians’ “ugly interference” in Iraqi affairs was not entirely unjustified. Most of the American meddling, however, has originated with President Bush and his advisers. From the beginning, American policy makers have been ambivalent about independence for post-invasion Iraqi governments. The administration has lauded those governments as independent, sovereign models for the new democratic order Bush wants to confer on the larger Middle East while criticising those governments for failing to achieve objectives that were formulated in Washington.

Maliki’s government owes its existence to Bush’s post-invasion policies. Bush’s policies, with their obtuse indifference to Iraqi realities, led to the current reliance on Maliki’s ineffective sectarian government.

But American politicians who call for replacing Maliki ought to recognise not only that they sound like colonialists to Iraqi ears, but also that more malevolent forces are sharpening their knives in Iraq, preparing to wage a struggle for power not at the ballot box but in the streets.