Reuters | Maliki, in charm offensive, invites scholars to Baghdad
By Alister Bull
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, concerned by his portrayal in U.S. media as an autocratic leader intent on consolidating power, has invited several influential Washington scholars to Baghdad to meet his team next week.
The rare invitation was extended to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institution and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group, Reuters has learned.
"I think it a very smart and constructive step on his part," said Pollack, a former CIA military analyst who served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and also authored an influential book backing the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Maliki’s opponents have accused the Shi’ite leader of amassing power they fear will restore the dictatorship toppled by the United States when it felled Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi officials said the idea behind inviting the scholars was to put out Baghdad’s side of the story and respond to a “deliberate distortion of reality” being promoted by Maliki’s opponents.
"He feels that there is an increasing hostile activity against Iraq and the Iraqi government that attempts to give an unfavorable and negative picture about the situation in Iraq," said Ali Al-Mussawi, chief media adviser to the prime minister, responding to an enquiry made to Iraq’s embassy in Washington.
President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of last year is blamed by critics for a political crisis that erupted as soon as they left and has raised fears the country could tip back into civil war.