Monday, August 17, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- Meeting with Iraqi PM Maliki and President Talabani

After the briefing with Gen Odierno and Ambassador Hill, we meet first with Prime Minister Maliki and later  with President Talabani.  I am impressed with the Prime Minister's growth as a leader. As John McCain said to him, "A couple of years ago, everyone worried that you were too weak; now everyone fears that you are too strong."

We discuss many issues from the disputed lands in Kurdistan to the failure of the Iraqis to pass a "hydrocarbon law" allocating oil revenues among the various sects and regions. We also talk about American troop levels and our future relationship. As I had promised the Ambassador and General, I bring up the government's (lack of) effort to encourage the return of Iraqi refugees. The PM dances around in his response, leading me to believe that he is worried about the electoral consequences of an influx of Sunnis prior to the January elections. To be fair, however, there is also  a deep-seated fear among many Shiites that Sunni  Baathist elements (Saddem Hussein's former party) will  return once again to seize control and oppress the Shiite majority.

We then meet with Iraqi President Talabani, a gregarious, warm Kurd and talk about our upcoming trip to Kurdistan in the morning.

Finally at nearly 10 p.m., the meetings are concluded, and we go to the American embassy for soup and sandwiches for dinner.

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