AMERICA IN IRAQ….Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to publicly disparage U.S. proposals for a long-term presence in Iraq (“The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the U.N. terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil”) while his deputies continue to make more soothing noises in private. I continue to think this is more a negotiating posture than a genuine breakdown, but it’s stuff like this that gives me pause:

“All the politicians are trying to prove that they care more about Iraqis than they do about Americans — otherwise they know the people and the voters will not support them,” said Ala Maaki, a senior lawmaker with Iraqi’s largest Sunni political party. “I think we could see al-Maliki and Moqtada Sadr trying to one-up the other today and see who can take the strongest stand against the Americans.”

Sure, Ala Maaki is part of the opposition, but he’s basically right: Maliki is doing what he’s doing because there are elections coming up and he’s trying to demonstrate his nationalist street cred. Now ask yourself: regardless of whether or not Maliki is posturing, what does it say about our long-term prospects in Iraq when pretty much every party feels like their winning campaign strategy is to appeal to anti-American sentiment among the public? With whoever’s the most anti-American most likely to win? Nothing good.

(Also worth noting: unlike the leader of the most powerful democracy in the world, Maliki actually plans to allow his parliament to vote on the agreement. But following a provincial election in which both sides have spent months fanning anti-American sentiment, what kind of mood is parliament going to be in when they finally get a look at whatever Maliki manages to negotiate? Perhaps….a bit testy?)

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