While the Bush Administration publicly hails the “progress” within Iraq which has allowed them to turn over control of Anbar province to the Iraqi government, many officials are reportedly expressing private concerns that success has gone to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s head, that he does not fully appreciate the US military’s role as his “enablers,” and that this is leading him to assert an uncomfortable level of independence.
This independence is perhaps most pronounced in Prime Minister Maliki’s stance on the terms of a draft agreement on long-term US military presence in Iraq. Maliki has demanded a “firm” timeline for a pullout, in contrast to America’s “aspirational time horizon,” which would leave the pullout conditional on certain progress metrics. He has also fought America on the question of immunity for US military personnel and contractors, the terms of which would be key to his ability to push the agreement through Iraq’s parliament.
Yet it is also seen operationally. Maliki has pressed the US to turn over control of the Awakening Councils to the Iraqi government, which the US has been reluctant to do. Considerable distrust remains between the faction and the government, as demonstrated by the reticence toward integrating them into security forces, and by the Council’s negative reaction to the Anbar handover.