Today’s widely anticipated meeting between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki was abruptly canceled. CNN suggests that it “was put off to Thursday after a U.S. memo cast doubt on al-Maliki’s ability to deal with the sectarian warfare in Iraq.” Bush counselor Dan Bartlett put that speculation to rest with this clear explanation:
BARTLETT: The President is going to have a bilateral and dinner with the King of Jordan. Since the King of Jordan and Prime Minister Maliki had a bilateral themselves, earlier today, everybody believed that negated the purpose for the three of them to meet tonight, together, in a trilateral setting. So the plan, according to — since they had such a good, productive bilateral discussion, was just for the President to deal with bilateral issues and other issues with the King this evening in a dinner setting, and then the meetings set for tomorrow will still take place as scheduled.
Is that clear? No? Ok, here’s more Bartlett:
QUESTION: The King and the Prime Minister had a meeting, but the Prime Minister hasn’t seen the President since he got here, and the President changed his schedule to come here for this meeting.
BARTLETT: The President requested the meeting. This was the President requesting the meeting with the Prime Minister. And the substantive meetings on Iraq — look, they were not going to be doing a full detail discussion in a trilateral setting about Iraq and the future of Iraq and the strategy anyway, that just wouldn’t be appropriate. So it was going to be more of a social meeting anyways. But the fact that they had already had a good meeting together, felt like it negated the purpose to doing so. And the President and Prime Minister Maliki will have a very robust and lengthy dialogue tomorrow morning.
So the President flew to Jordan to have a “social meeting” with Maliki, which Maliki decided not to attend. There’s nothing more to it. That should put all the speculation to rest.