Andy McCarthy offers this reminder:
As I’ve mentioned before, Maliki, of the Shiite Dawa Party which opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place, has long-standing ties to Iran and Syria — and has expressed support for Hezbollah. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that anyone is surprised.
McCarthy is entirely right in what he says here, but that raises a couple questions. First, there is the obvious question of why the U.S. is attempting to pursue a strategy premised on limiting Iranian influence in Iraq and the region while actively backing a government that has no intention of limiting Iranian influence in Iraq and very clearly is led by a sectarian party. Then there is the question of whether McCain understands any of this when his rejected NYT op-ed states quite clearly that he does not consider Maliki and his government to be sectarian.
According to the version on Drudge, McCain wrote:
Nor do they [progress benchmarks] measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.
Leaving aside that Maliki’s actions regarding Basra and Sadr City were part of intra-Shi’ite feuding in the name of establishing the authority of the central government, this statement by McCain shows that he does not understand the nature of the Iraqi government. (Maliki’s targeting of other Shi’ite groups obviously would not in itself imply non-sectarianism, but would only prove that he wants his faction of Shi’ites to be dominant within the Shi’ite majority.) Even more than creating a political problem for McCain back home, Maliki’s recent statements have revealed both the untenability of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq and the complete incoherence of U.S. strategy in that country.