Check out the expressions on their respective faces in the photo that accompanies this article. Says it all.
A senior al-Maliki aide who attended Thursday’s talks said the Iraqi leader presented Bush a blueprint for the equipping and training of Iraqi security forces. The aide, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the information, declined to give details of the plan.
Bush and Rice repeatedly probed al-Maliki on his plans to deal with the Mahdi Army militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the aide said. The Iraqi prime minister was noncommittal.
“It is not a big problem and we will find a solution for it,” the official quoted al-Maliki as telling Bush.
Not a big problem? Buried in that ABC News article Bryan just blogged is this fun fact: according to U.S. officials, the Mahdi army contains upwards of 40,000 members. By way of comparison, GlobalSecurity.org estimates the number of fighters in Hezbollah at no more than 10K. Al-Sadr’s not just using military pressure, either. Having pulled his MPs out of parliament two days ago, he’s now allegedly trying to organize a bloc that would call for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing soon or, at the very least, to set a timetable.
Think of it his own little Reed-Levin plan.
No matter, says Maliki, who told Charlie Gibson earlier today that Iraqi troops would be fully ready to take on the world … six months from now.
The Democrats want Bush to appoint an envoy whose sole job would be to ride herd on Maliki re: cracking down on the militias. Normally I’m against added bureaucracy but that’s at least one way of turning up the pressure that doesn’t involve threatening to pull out. According to Bush, commenting at this morning’s joint presser in Amman, the problem with Maliki isn’t that he’s dragging his feet, it’s that — he’s too eager!
[W]hat I appreciate is his attitude. As opposed to saying, America, you go solve the problem, we have a Prime Minister who’s saying, stop holding me back, I want to solve the problem.
Bush had this to say, too, which was the only newsworthy bit from the entire session. He’s looking at you, Jim Baker:
So we’ll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people. I know there’s a lot ofspeculation that these reports in Washington mean there’s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there…
I am very worried, as should the world, about Iran’s desires to have a nuclear weapon and, therefore, will continue to work with the world to send a clear message to the Iranians, the Iranian government, that we will — they will become more isolated…
I have said that if they were to verifiably suspect their enrichment program, we would part of the EU3 plus Russia plus China discussions. They know how to get us to the table. The choice is theirs to make.
It’s not what Bush thinks is best or Baker thinks is best, though; as our friends on the left are constantly reminding us, it’s what the generals think that counts most. So what do the generals think?
Eh, maybe generals aren’t so important anyway.