IN OTHER WORDS: Missing link

The one crucial assumption behind everything President Bush proposed on Iraq last week was that Washington would have the wholehearted support of PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

None of Bush’s ideas — his plan to send more American soldiers to fight alongside Iraqi units in Baghdad, his programme for jump-starting the Iraqi economy, his hope of reconciling rival sectarian communities and heading off civil war — can possibly succeed without the full

cooperation of the Iraqi government.

Yet in the days following Bush’s address, as in the days before, Maliki has demonstrated how far his own goals diverge from America’s best interests or any reasonable path for containing Iraq’s civil war. Consider, for example, Maliki’s designation of Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar — a Shiite officer known for his combative resistance to American tutelage — to be the overall military commander of the new Baghdad security drive. Consider also the grisly decapitation over the weekend of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s co-defendant and half brother.

Bush needs to make clear to the Iraqi leader that continued American support will depend on his active cooperation. And that, ultimately, the Iraqis have even more to lose than the Americans from an unending civil war.