Troops still there.
George W. Bush’s unannounced, but not surprising, visit to Iraq on Labor Day was the kiss of death to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
If you’re Maliki, it’s one thing for Philip Zelikow to work behind the scenes to oust you; it’s another thing altogether to have the word get out that Bush took you aside and told you, “You’re my friend.”
That little tale with which Bush regaled the press corps afterwards should make Maliki even more popular with his countrymen.
As Beirut’s Daily Star opines this morning:
The only way Maliki can survive is if he’s seen as strong, independent, decisive. A visit from Bush is not what he needs. U.S. papers fell right in line by treating this trip seriously. But as the Star notes:
By the way, you see that Bush landed in Anbar province, not in Baghdad. Those days of of surprise visits to Baghdad are over. Too dangerous.
But meeting officials and troops 100 miles of Baghdad works just as well. Newspaper headlines are blaring, “Bush Hails Anbar Gains.”