In December 2011, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki travelled to Washington D.C. for a meeting with President Barak Obama. The State Department was hoping this would be a great symbolic get together of Iraq and the United States. Unfortunately, Maliki was not in the mood, and complained about his fears of Sunni states and Baathists and what the Americans were doing about them. This was just one of many mishaps between the two governments.
The State Department had big plans for Maliki’s visit. It was hoping that the premier could lay a wreath at Arlington cemetery for the U.S. troops that died in Iraq. On more substantive issues it would offer to help Iraq with its relations with Kuwait, and wanted to discuss the end of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Arlington would be an important symbolic event to show the ties between the two countries. The Obama administration was also hoping that it could help Iraq with other issues besides the war, which it thought was over. Maliki however had his own ideas.
Maliki entered the White House angry, and became even more so. First, the prime minister met with Vice President Joe Biden. Maliki told Biden that if the U.S. didn’t stop Iraq’s Sunni neighbors from interfering he would turn to Iran. Maliki then found out that the U.S. was talking to former Baathists in Turkey. Maliki was infuriated. He brought those issues to his meeting with Obama. The president was upset he hadn’t been informed about Maliki’s complaints beforehand. The prime minister later told his aides that if Washington didn’t stop its outreach to the former regime elements it could get out of Iraq. One of Maliki’s main paranoias was that the Baathists would return to power in Iraq. The U.S. on the other hand, had been talking to them for years hoping that they would end the insurgency and perhaps help with reconciliation. That only increased Maliki’s fears. The only real positive that came from the visit was the photo opportunity Obama had with Maliki at Arlington. Otherwise, this was another time that Washington and Baghdad were talking at cross purposes to each other.
Compton, Matt, “President Obama Welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,” White House, 12/12/11
Crabtree, Susan, “Obama, al-Maliki mark end of Iraq war,” Washington Times, 12/12/11
Gordon, Michael and Trainor, General Bernard, The Endgame, The Inside Story Of The Struggle For Iraq, From George W. Bush To Barack Obama, New York, Pantheon, 2012