Al-Maliki said his government needs "time and effort" to enact the political reforms that Washington seeks — "particularly since the political process is facing security, economic and services pressures, as well as regional and international interference."
But he said if necessary, Iraqi police and soldiers could fill the void left by the departure of coalition forces.
"We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want," he said.
One of al-Maliki's close advisers, Shiite lawmaker Hassan al-Suneid, bristled over the American pressure, telling The Associated Press that "the situation looks as if it is an experiment in an American laboratory (judging) whether we succeed or fail."
He sharply criticized the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations and embarrassing the Iraqi government through such tactics as building a wall around Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah and launching repeated raids on suspected Shiite militiamen in the capital's slum of Sadr City.
He also criticized U.S. overtures to Sunni groups in Anbar and Diyala provinces, encouraging former insurgents to join the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. "These are gangs of killers," he said.*
In addition, he said that al-Maliki has problems with the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, who he said works along a "purely American vision."
"There are disagreements that the strategy that Petraeus is following might succeed in confronting al-Qaida in the early period but it will leave Iraq an armed nation, an armed society and militias," al-Suneid said.
(* I wrote about that situation earlier this week in ' Outsourcing Executions of al Qaeda in Iraq'.)
Now, while this open defiance is most likely just posing by al-Maliki, who felt he needed to respond to the 'unsatisfactory' benchmarks cited in the latest report, at least the criticism by al-Suneid appears to be brutally honest.
One last thing regarding this issue:
In August, the parliament is taking a one-month vacation — a shorter break than the usual two months, but still enough to anger some in Congress who say lawmakers should push through reforms while American soldiers are dying.
First of all, members of the US congress have absolutely no qualms about taking their vacations while American soldiers are dying. Secondly, Americans are not the only troops serving in that country. What about the "coalition of the [dwindling] willing"? Or don't their troops matter as well? And beyond that, every time I've seen some American talking head or politician comment about the Iraqi parliament's summer break, no one ever mentions that Iraqi soldiers are dying as well - not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead civilians as well. So, I find that entire line of criticism to be hugely egocentric, but it just follows along the same attitude as the "those ungrateful Iraqis" line that is brought up by Republicans and Democrats alike. If they had a clue, maybe they'd remember that the Iraq invasion was illegal and that nobody, besides that lying crook Ahmed Chalabi, asked for the Americans' help in the first place.
As for al-Maliki trying to assure those who favour troop withdrawals ASAP, he knows that as long as Bush is around that isn't going to happen. If he truly believes Iraq is ready to go it alone (which it never actually will since US troops are poised to be there for years as "support" for the government), he should put his money where his mouth is and just kick them out. He'd even win back al Sadr's support if he made such a move and that would definitely bring progress on the political and insurgency front. But al -Maliki will not be allowed to do that as long as his government has not passed the oil law in order to appease Bush and his war-profiteering buddies. Forget about the September "progress report". The turning point in this war will begin the day that oil law is passed since that's all this war has been about since day one.