Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that Iraq remains a dangerous place, a point underscored by a thunderous explosion that rattled windows in the U.S. Embassy where he spent most of the day.
Cheney spoke less than an hour after an explosion could be heard in the U.S. Embassy where he spent most of the day. Windows rattled and reporters covering the vice president were briefly moved to a more secure area.
Said Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride: “His meeting was not disturbed and he was not moved.”
McBride was presumably commenting on the vice president’s whereabouts rather than his mood.
Cheney was undoubtedly in Iraq to move rather than be moved. A transcript from Cheney’s press briefing certainly gives the impression that the vice president pressed the Iraqis to make progress on Khalilzad’s old “benchmarks.”
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. You said you were impressed by the responses that you heard from Prime Minister Maliki and his colleagues. Did they offer any specific commitments, particularly time commitments, in moving forward on some of the specific measures that you and other American officials have talked about; namely, hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification, provincial elections and constitutional reform?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I believe that Prime Minister Maliki plans an address to the parliament this week on many of these issues – [cough] excuse me – and, of course, it’s a political process that depends upon action by their legislative body. And but as I say, I do believe that there is a greater sense of urgency now than I’d seen previously.
Is Cheney unhappy with Maliki? Did Cheney threaten to dump Maliki, casting an eye toward “Saddam without a Mustache“?
Nevertheless, as the Washington Post recently suggested, there are allegedly at least three outstanding “political” issues:
Re-Baathification: Khalilzad pushed very hard for re-Baathification. Does Cheney care? Not if his thinking in any way matches that of Reuel Marc Gerecht at the American Enterprise Institute.
Oil: Yes, I think Cheney wants to hydrocarbon law passed. But here the primary obstacle may not be Maliki so much as Kurdish resistance to the bill’s centralization of control.
Constitutional Reform: The most contentious issues here seem to involve Kurdish regional autonomy and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution which includes provisions for a referendum on control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Here again, Kurds represent the major source of resistance to constitutional revisions. Sadrists and Sunnis stand united in opposition to Article 140 and Kurdish control of Kirkuk.
All of which suggests that if anyone in Iraq is pressing for the parliament to take a vacation, the Kurds would be the most likely slackers.