Iraqi Leader Tells Bush: Get Gen Petraeus Out
By Damien McElroy
The Telegraph UK
Saturday 28 July 2007
Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country's prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.
Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general's moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa'eda.
One Iraqi source said Mr Maliki used a video conference with Mr Bush to call for the general's signature strategy to be scrapped. "He told Bush that if Petraeus continues, he would arm Shia militias," said the official. "Bush told Maliki to calm down."
At another meeting with Gen Petraeus, Mr Maliki said: "I can't deal with you any more. I will ask for someone else to replace you."
Gen Petraeus admitted that the relationship was stormy, saying: "We have not pulled punches with each other."
President Bush's support for Mr Maliki is deeply controversial within the US government because of the Iraqi's ties to Shia militias responsible for some of the worst sectarian violence.
The New York Times claimed yesterday that Saudi Arabia was refusing to work with Mr Maliki and has presented "evidence" that he was an Iranian intelligence agent to US officials. "Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the war," it reported.
Alongside the firm support of Mr Bush, Mr Maliki also enjoys the backing of Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador and his predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad, now America's representative at the United Nations.
Mr Khalilzad took a swipe at Saudi Arabia in an editorial published earlier this month that was widely seen as an appeal for a larger UN role in stabilising Iraq.
Mr Crocker, who attends Mr Maliki's stormy weekly meetings with Gen Petraeus, said the Iraqi leader was a strong partner of America.
"There is no leader in the world that is under more pressure than Nouri al-Maliki, without question," he said. "Sometimes he reflects that frustration. I don't blame him. I probably would too."