Iraqi Prime Minister Brings Largely Unnoticed Upbeat Message to White House: Successful 'Surge' Has Led to 'Stability' in Iraq

By Pete Winn | July 23, 2009 | 7:39 PM EDT

President Barack Obama, left, and Prime Minister Nouri-al-Maliki, right, at White House meeting. July 22, 2009. (AP photo)

( - In the nuanced language of diplomacy, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent an upbeat message that went practically unnoticed by U.S. media Wednesday during his visit to the White House: The surge of U.S. troops under President George W. Bush has meant success for Iraq and brought stability to that nation.
“My meeting with the president was a positive and constructive meeting,” Maliki told reporters at a joint news conference with Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House.
“It reflected the deep conviction on the part of both sides to establish a strategic friendship and in order to continue the successes that we have achieved, and perhaps we referred to the security successes that led to the stability in Iraq,” he added, speaking through a translator – a clear reference to the Surge.
“We have also referred to the sacrifices by our sons and daughters on both sides to confront al Qaeda members, those who are outlawed and those who voice sectarian wars. If they succeeded in their efforts, they would not have been killing only Iraq but the entire region through the danger of sectarianism.
“Our sons and daughters succeeded on both sides, which led to stability and the return of the strength of the Iraqi government under full sovereignty,” Maliki said.
Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Strategic Policy in Washington, D.C., said the talk of success was not a mistake. The surge of U.S. forces under Gen. David Petraeus during 2007 and 2008 brought increased security to Iraq and that brought stability to the country – clearly a success, "as far as it goes."
“We have begun, however, through the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from the cities and towns of Iraq, to unravel that success and incentivize those who wish to re-establish an environment of acute instability, to believe that the time is approaching when they will be able to do so with impunity,” Gaffney said. “I fear that will be the case.”
President Obama, for his part, acknowledged that progress had been made in Iraq, but stopped far short of declaring the victory that Maliki seemed to find.
“It doesn’t mean that there aren’t still dangers in Iraq, and obviously we've seen that in some circumstances, those who want to sow sectarian division inside of Iraq are going to still resort to the killing of innocents and the senseless bombings that plagued Iraq for such a long time after Saddam Hussein was deposed,” Obama said.
Gaffney admitted that Obama’s somewhat gloomy outlook may be warranted. A former Defense Department official under President Reagan, Gaffney said the new president should look squarely in the mirror if killings return.
“I think he’s creating by his actions, some of the reasons for gloominess,” Gaffney said. “Had we not followed an artificial deadline to begin implementing this phased withdrawal, I think there would be a lot less cause for gloominess.”
Gaffney added: “I think that we would have been on a trajectory that was likely to translate not only to continuing stability, but a greater sense of confidence on the part of the Iraqi people – that they really had left the horrors of the first few years of their liberation behind them.”
Jim Carafano, a senior research fellow for foreign policy studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that Maliki was acting like a politician -- which is a good sign. 
“This is not the Iraq of 20 or 30 years ago – it’s not even the Iraq of two or three years ago,” Carafano said. “It’s an Iraq where politics matter. Maliki is a politician, just like Obama, and when he stands up in the Rose Garden and answers questions, he’s not just speaking to the president and the American press, he’s also sending messages to the Iraqi people – and sending messages to the other political parties to his political opponents.
That itself is progress, Carafano said.
“In the old days, if you didn’t like your political opponents, you took them out behind a barracks and had them shot. Today, you actually have to beat them in the marketplace of ideas.”