Gordon describes the Sunday afternoon discussion as a mix of "gentle coaxing with a sober appraisal of politics in Baghdad and Washington" in which Fallon told Maliki his government should pass legislation on the division of oil revenues by next month. “Is it reasonable to expect it to be completed in July?” Fallon asked. “We have to show some progress in July for the upcoming report.”
Maliki said the Kurds had raised concerns about the revenue sharing agreement, but, according to Gordon, "He indicated that some progress on the oil law would be made."
At that point, as Gordon tells it, Ambassador Crocker chimed in and pointed out that it was important that progress include the resolution of that thorny issue (italics added).
Even at that, it doesn't sound like Maliki got the picture.
At one point, Mr. Maliki wondered aloud whether Congress would really give the Iraqis credit for tackling tough issues if they completed the oil law. Admiral Fallon reassured him that most Americans wanted the Iraqi government to succeed.
Fallon also touched on the subjects of Iraq's army and police force, and on Iran and Syria. Based on Gordon's article, Maliki seems to have fended off any substantial talk on that subject.
As Gordon described the meeting over all: "At times, the two sides appeared to be operating on two different clocks. While Admiral Fallon emphasized the urgency of demonstrating results, Mr. Maliki cast the political process as a long journey from dictatorship to democracy."
I see four noteworthy aspects of this story.
1) Gordon writes, "It was only at the end of the meeting that American officials agreed that it could be on the record." Strictly speaking that might be true, but it's still bunk. Gordon was invited to the meeting for a specific purpose: to frame an image of the meeting to the administration's specifications and feed it into the media through the New York Times. There's no one to contradict Gordon's version of events. Fallon and Gates won't, Malachi really can't (he'd just sound like he was trying to save face), and the "senior political adviser" wasn't named, so there's no way to press him for additional details. Gordon, who worked with Judith Miller on several key stories during the run-up to the Iraq war, is a known administration "cooperator." Note how he used "two sides appeared to be operating on two different clocks" in the story, hearkening the administration's oft repeated lament of late that "there is Washington Time and there is Baghdad time."
2) Gordon's narrative indicates that Admiral Fallon did most of the talking, not Ambassador Crocker. That seems just a tad unusual, the four-star dominating an ambassador in his host country, but the meeting may have been staged that way purposely. I've spent just about zero time in Admiral Fallon's presence, but he has a profound reputation as a man who seldom fails to get his point across to anybody.
3) The way Gordon tells things, Maliki didn't get the point. At all. Not even close.
4) The Bush administration wants us to get the message that everything that's wrong in Baghdad is that clueless putz Malichi's fault.
The timing of the meeting (and the article) has to do with the nearing "progress report" General David Petraeus is scheduled to give Congress in September. With this story and other's like it, the administration has announced that it has rattled Maliki's cage and he's not responding.
The next question: what leverage are they holding against Maliki?
They're not threatening to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq--that's directly counter to the administration's goal. If they're getting through to Maliki at all, they're telling him that he will be blamed for future failures, and if push comes to shove, we'll remove him from power.
Stripping Maliki of his Prime Minister role would be a serious breach of Iraq's sovereignty. Then again, I'm not too sure anyone takes the notion of a "sovereign Iraq" too seriously."
But if we can Maliki, we pretty much need to can the whole government, and if we do that, we just about have to follow up by installing a Douglas MacArthur style military governor and take direct charge of everything--including and especially the oil.
That would make a heck of an excuse for staying the course, wouldn't it? Heck, maybe in 40 or 50 years, we could offer Iraq statehood.