With just four months left on America’s UN mandate to police Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is playing hardball. Once seen as an embattled US puppet, the Iraqi PM has consolidated his power, and is turning visibly away from his former backers in Washington, the Los Angeles Times reports. He’s demanding a tight leash on US troops, including a withdrawal from all cities by June.
As US influence decreases, Iran’s is rising, bolstered by burgeoning economic ties and a belief that, as one Shiite put it, “The Iranians will stay in this place till Judgment Day and the Americans will withdraw.” The tougher Maliki is also more popular among Iraqi Shiites, but Sunnis worry about America’s reduced status. “They are acting only as spectators,” lamented one Sunni politician.