When U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sit in the Oval Office tomorrow, there will be a lot of topics of discussion to catch up on: a spike in attacks by 124 percent this year, Maliki’s failure at inclusive governance, and al-Qaeda’s speedy return to Iraq. There will also be a more positive conversation on Iraq’s increased oil production and military aid.
After Obama’s historic phone call to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rowhani on October 2nd, Maliki is no longer a unique asset in reaching out to Tehran.Joyce Karam
Obama carries a big stick on this visit. Knowing Maliki’s security vulnerability, the U.S. should link any military assistance or intelligence sharing to the Iraqi premier making political progress with his opponents. Integrating Iraqi Sunnis in a political process, working on a new electoral law that offers better representation, reaching an agreement on oil revenues and appeasing tribes in the country’s western region would certainly go a long way in addressing the country’s divisions and isolating al-Qaeda.