John Kerry: Mission Impossible?

By John Cookson. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

US Secretary of State John Kerry's whistle-stop swing through the Middle East and Europe will likely include a meeting this week with Iraq's embattled caretaker prime-minister Nouri al-Maliki.

At the Baghdad summit we can expect Secretary Kerry to again hammer home Washington's demand that the Iraqi premier form an inclusive government of national unity with Sunni politicians given prominent roles. The top US official will also seek assurance that the 300 American military advisers being sent to shore up Iraq's military are immune from prosecution on Iraqi soil.

In my opinion Secretary Kerry's visit to Baghdad is almost certainly mission impossible, as Al-Maliki is not likely to relax his hard-line stance on either issue.

On Sunni inclusiveness Washington has made the same impassioned plea for years and Al-Maliki has ignored it, even as unrest raged in Al-Anbar and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Iraq was facing disaster. It was a high-risk political gamble by Al-Maliki, but the recent general election result shows millions of Iraqis supported him and endorsed his policies.

On the question of whether 300 advisers will not be tried in Iraq if they commit crimes; again Al-Maliki is unlikely to U-turn on his consistent policy of non-immunity, especially as few in Baghdad can forget how 4 American Blackwater security guards, working for the State Department, escaped prosecution in Iraq for shooting dead 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007 - their US trial is ongoing.

Al-Maliki's tough position was boosted Sunday when Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came out and expressed strong opposition to intervention in Iraq by the United States - or anyone else - and he insisted that the Iraqis themselves can bring an end to chaos sweeping the country.

Khamenei also suspects Washington wants to keep Iraq under its control and place its own stooges in power.

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