The AP reports (again) on Maliki's "change of heart"

I find myself in the unusual position of scoffing at an article by the Associated Press because it’s too optimistic. For the second time in three days, no less.

Here’s what Steven Hurst (who wrote the “Jamil is real!” blockbuster, fyi) said on Friday about the Sadrists suddenly finding themselves “besieged”:

During much of his nearly eight months in office, al-Maliki, who relies on al-Sadr’s political support, has blocked or ordered an end to many U.S.-led operations against the Mahdi Army.

But al-Maliki reportedly had a change of heart in late November while going into a meeting in Jordan with President Bush. It has since been disclosed that the Iraqi leader’s vision for a new security plan for Baghdad, to which Bush has committed 17,500 additional U.S. troops, was outlined in that meeting.

Al-Maliki is said by aides to have told Bush that he wants the Iraqi army and police to be in the lead, but he would no longer prevent U.S. attempts to stifle the Mahdi Army.

In fact, according to today’s Washington Post, Maliki’s proposal was to have U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of the city and let the Iraqi army run rampant, er, take over security in Baghdad. Bush, mistrustful, rejected it. But to the point at hand: if Maliki’s “change of heart” on November 30 was so sincere, why were Mahdi army goons placed in charge of executing Saddam a month later?

Oh well. Hurst is back today with more proof that Maliki is a new man, his eyes suddenly opened to the chaos around him. Wouldn’t you know it, he simply didn’t know there were Shiite death squads operating in Iraq until U.S. intelligence helpfully handed him some evidence.

There’s so much spin going on here, you can measure it in RPMs:

Sometime between [October 31, when Maliki ordered the U.S. roadblocks of Sadr City lifted] and Nov. 30, when the prime minister met President Bush, al-Maliki was convinced of the truth of American intelligence reports and other evidence about the militia, the two government officials said.

“Al-Maliki realized he couldn’t keep defending the Mahdi Army because of the information and evidence that the armed group was taking part in the killings, displacing people and violating the state’s sovereignty,” said one official. Both he and a second government official who confirmed the account refused to be identified by name because the information was confidential. Both officials are intimately aware of the prime minister’s thinking.

“The Americans don’t act on rumors but on accurate intelligence. There are many intelligence agencies acting on the ground, and they know what’s going on,” said the second official, confirming the Americans had given al-Maliki overwhelming evidence about the Mahdi Army’s deep involvement in the sectarian slaughter.

If U.S. intelligence, as sorry as it is, knows more about what’s going on in Baghdad than Nuri al-Maliki, then it really is all over.

I’ll leave you with some good news from an unlikely source about the border town of Husaybah, where the only thing that’s exploding is the local economy. It’s part of Anbar province, but the locals have gotten things largely under control and the Marines are hoping to pull out of the area entirely within months. How’d they do it? You know how.