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Nouri al-Maliki speaks to the liberators of his country

Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, writes an op-ed for the Washington Post called “A partner in Iraq.” The most significant thing about the op-ed is that Maliki took the trouble to produce it. By doing so, he goes a ways towards demonstrating that the U.S. does have a partner, of sorts, in Iraq and that, as he puts it, the U.S. has not lost Iraq.

Maliki’s piece relies heavily on cliches, of course — what op-ed by a national leader doesn’t? But his take on Syria is interesting. Maliki argues that there is “no scenario in which a military ‘victory’ by either the government or the opposition can bring peace and stability.” Thus, he advocates a “negotiated solution.”

This is the position I would expect from a responsible Iraqi nationalist leader — one who is hostile to al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists (who may well achieve military victory in Syria), but not in the pocket of Iran (which wants Assad to win). A negotiated settlement is plainly in Iraq’s interests, and Maliki makes a decent case that it’s also in the interests of the U.S.:

We have been mystified by what appears to be the widespread belief in the United States that any outcome in Syria that removes President Bashar al-Assad from power will be better than the status quo. A Syria controlled in whole or part by al-Qaeda and its affiliates — an outcome that grows more likely by the day — would be more dangerous to both our countries than anything we’ve seen up to now.

I am similarly mystified, but wonder whether there can be a negotiated settlement, much less one that would hold, given the extent to which the situation in Syria has disintegrated during the past two years of U.S. inaction.

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