The McClatchey newspapers Iraq team did a lengthy interview with Nouri al-Maliki. You can see their writeup here. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t agree with his critics in the US and also doesn’t think he should be removed by a coup. Near the end, though, comes something a bit more interesting as Leila Fadel is asking him why he doesn’t meet with Muqtada al-Sadr anymore:
FADEL: Why not, at this time, when there are troubled relations, and the Mahdi Army is being accused of killing governors and running astray?MALIKI: I have no problem with meeting him. But he withdrew from the challenges to a large degree and he has big problems within the movement. That is why I have meetings with leaders from the movement but not with Muqtada and I have many efforts for reform and to bridge the mistakes through bilateral or more dialogue. Perhaps what is holding back our talks is my firm rejection of the policies adopted by the movement. And I believe some leaders have begun to understand my position and accept it as the correct position in spite of my firmness. Indeed now is the time for meetings but I believe that meeting the leaders who actually represent the movement is more to the point and more effective in quelling the situation and in isolating the gangs from the good elements and cadres in the movement.
If I read him right, Maliki is contending that Sadr himself doesn’t really control the movement at this point, so there’s no reason to meet with him and Maliki can just meet with faction leaders instead.