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Obama confronted al-Maliki on “secret alliance” with Sadr – White House source | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – A White House source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting between US President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Washington on Monday was “not as diplomatic” as the joint-statements issued to the press by the two world leaders would indicate.

The White House source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the two leaders argued over several issues, including guarantees that Americans in Iraq would be protected after the withdrawal of US troops at the end of the year, as well as remarks made by al-Maliki about his intentions to “strike against his enemies” in Iraq. US officials have expressed concern that Iraq’s Sunni community may be vulnerable following the forthcoming withdrawal of US troops.

US President Barack Obama also questioned al-Maliki about his ties to Iran, saying these are far stronger than the Iraqi prime minister has publicly admitted. He also questioned the Iraqi leader’s ability to rein in Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, who has threatened to kill Americans. According to the source, Obama referred to a “secret alliance” between al-Maliki and Sadr, who are both Shiites.

The White House source characterized the discussions between Obama and al-Maliki as being “diplomatic”, stressing that the two world leaders did not raise their voices or exchange accusations. However, the source added that this discussion was far “less diplomatic” than the joint-statements the two leaders later made to the media, where both Obama and al-Maliki attempted to present a united front, stressing the strong future relations between Baghdad and Washington.

As for the difference of opinion between Washington and Baghdad on the situation in Syria, and Iraq’s continued support of the al-Assad regime, Obama attributed this to “tactical differences”, however the White House source revealed that the US president had strongly pressured al-Maliki on this issue during their meeting. The source revealed that Obama had stressed that he did not understand why al-Maliki refused to put pressure on al-Assad, particularly as the Syrian president is a dictatorial leader as authoritarian as former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who al-Maliki himself personally suffered under.

The White House source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Obama stressed that “he would not neglect the defense of the Americans in Iraq”, in reference to the thousands of diplomats at the US Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the world, as well as the thousands of American expatriates, who will remain behind in Iraq following the US withdrawal. Media outlets have previously quoted Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki as saying that he will not maintain the protection of American businesspeople and companies in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and that he may even abolish the Green Zone altogether.

Furthermore, the White House source revealed that Obama questioned al-Maliki’s ability to protect the leaders and members of the now outlawed Baathist Party. The source said that the Baathist Party, under the new democracy in Iraq, should be given the right to express its opinion freely, organize its ranks, stand for elections, adding that even if this party represents a minority [the Sunnis], the majority [the Shiites], must respect their rights.

The American doubts about al-Maliki were reflected in the White House daily press briefing held by Press Secretary Jay Carney. Journalists asked for “the truth” about future relations between the US and Iraq.

In answer to a question from an American journalist, about statements published by Iraqi newspapers, attributed to al-Maliki, saying that he would not honor the election of his “enemies”, Carney replied: “…Look, there has been steady progress and the results have been ups and downs as we’ve gone through that progress over the number of years…So we always, in our dealings with the Iraqis and both the Prime Minister and other Iraqi leaders from other parties, are always focused on the need to be democratic, to be representative, to ensure that the rights of all Iraqis are respected, and that these differences are worked out peacefully through the process. And we will continue to press the Iraqis with that advice and that point of view as further develop our relationship.”