Across thousands of miles, President Bush remains a close adviser to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki. At least every 2 weeks, the politicians confer over a satellite uplink, usually for more than an hour of discussion about the civil war, Iraq's future, and even their shared religious devotion. "They talk about the challenges they face," a source tells the Times.
“I’ve watched a man begun to grow in office,” Bush said in April. The president plays friend and counselor to the PM, but also enforcer as the White House pressures Baghdad to meet crucial benchmarks that will dial back the US military's role in the country. Some detractors say Maliki is telling Bush only what he wants to hear.