Iraqi Leaders Closely Watching U.S. Elections

I mentioned this past summer that pressing priorities in Iraq made Iraqis show little if any interest in the upcoming U.S. election. That was the case when November seemed too far to worry about. We're almost in October now and things are changing.

Comments made by MP Sami al-Askari are evidence of such a trend. As an adviser to Prime Minister Maliki and member of his Da'wa Party, al-Askari's comments are definitely indicative of what's being discussed in that small circle and probably reflect Maliki's own viewpoints.

As recent as June, al-Askari's position echoed Maliki's approval of a 16-month timetable for withdrawal. But three months can indeed make a difference. "Iraqis are better off with Republicans," al-Askari said in an email to Kathleen Parker at NRO last week.

What I understood from the MP's statement is that the Da'wa Party now thinks it would be better off with Republicans. As for ordinary Iraqis, they have always been in favor of determined allies who want to correct the mistakes of the past and help Iraq pass the bottleneck -- quitters have never been popular.

The difference in the tempo of developments that I pointed out above is not the only reason behind such shifts in the Maliki team's rhetoric with respect to the U.S. presence and future relations with the next U.S. administration.

Two other important factors can be identified. First of all, when Maliki flirted with Obama's plans for withdrawal from Iraq, the latter was celebrating a significant lead in polls and an ultimate landslide win didn't seem improbable. Again, this is not the case now as McCain's position has significantly improved in recent weeks. Maliki may have realized that he threw his lot in with the Democratic candidate too soon and now wants to change course.