By the time Stephen Hadley succeeded Condoleezza Rice last year as White House national security adviser (having previously served as her deputy), he was well-accustomed to being the fall guy for missteps in Bush team strategy. Is Hadley now playing bad cop to Secretary of State Rice’s supportive efforts to groom Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite politician chosen last April to form an Iraqi government?
On Nov. 28, just before a planned summit with President Bush in Amman, Jordan, the New York Times posted on its Web site the contents of a Nov. 8 classified memo (below) in which Hadley harshly criticized the Iraqi prime minister. The Hadley memo described an October meeting with Maliki in Baghdad. Hadley suggested Maliki wants “to be strong but [is] having difficulty figuring out how to do so.” Hadley also wondered whether Maliki is “willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas” of his politically powerful anti-American Shiite supporter, Muqtada al-Sadr. Though publicly Hadley has posed his criticisms as gently as possible (“this is not a criticism of Maliki, don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism of Maliki”), Hadley wrote in his memo that the prime minister is either uninformed, dishonest, or inept (“ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or … his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions”). The day after the classified memo appeared in print, Bush stood with Maliki and praisedhis efforts.