Ned Parker at the LA Times has a grim assessment of how Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is faring these days:
Iraq's government is teetering on the edge. Maliki's Cabinet is filled with officials who are deeply estranged from one another and more loyal to their parties than to the government as a whole. Some are jostling to unseat the prime minister. Few, if any, have accepted the basic premise of a government whose power is shared among each of Iraq's warring sects and ethnic groups.
Maliki is the man U.S. officials are counting on to bring Iraq's civil war under control, yet he seems unable to break the government's deadlock.
The prospects for achieving any of the objectives deemed important by the Bush administration appear dismal:
Even Maliki's top political advisor, Sadiq Rikabi, says he doubts the prime minister will be able to win passage of key legislation ardently sought by U.S. officials, including a law governing the oil industry and one that would allow more Sunni Arabs to gain government jobs.
Fingers are starting to be pointed at Maliki himself:
Interviews with a broad range of Iraqi and Western officials paint a portrait of Maliki as an increasingly isolated and ineffectual figure, lacking in confidence and unable to trust people.
Now, fellow Iraqi officials describe the prime minister as dangerously out of touch. They accuse him of insulating himself with a tightknit group of advisors from his party and of shutting others out of decision making. Rikabi, Maliki's political advisor, denied that allegation.
Parliament recently humiliated the prime minister by twice refusing to approve his nominations for six Cabinet positions left vacant for nearly two months. A Western diplomat in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity because he deals with the government, said Maliki had alienated would-be partners.
"Maliki is to blame for that because he has surrounded himself with his Dawa colleagues in his prime minister's office," the diplomat said. "It is a very big problem and doesn't promote trust. "He isn't a natural leader. You either have it or you don't."
The incessant jockeying for power in Iraq seems to be picking up steam:
The Sunni leader (Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi) said his group was now exploring alliances to unseat the government, asserting it was making progress toward forging a new coalition.
"We are not far away myself from the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council," he said, referring to the largest party in Iraq's Shiite bloc. "We more or less have a joint consensus that things have to be changed."
When we were working so assiduously to unseat Ibrahim al-Jaafari last year I had my doubts that anyone who replaced him would be any better. Maliki certainly hasn't got what it takes but one has to wonder whether any leader could pull together a country that has fractured so badly along ethnic, religious and tribal lines as Iraq. The grandiose neoconservative nationbuilding adventure in Iraq is in dire straits with no end in sight.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!