ALEX CHADWICK, host:
First, to Iraq and NPR's Anne Garrels at our bureau in Baghdad. Anne, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, we noted, appeared at his press conference today. And what happened there?
ANNE GARRELS: Basically, following a press conference yesterday by General Casey and by Ambassador Khalilzad where they said they'd agreed with the Iraqis on a timetable, he said no. There is no timetable. We're not going to listen to a timetable.
So that was pretty - well, what can I say, you know…
CHADWICK: Well I read that…
GARRELS: …in your face.
CHADWICK: …I read that account on the newswires and I thought, huh? Haven't they got an - do they have an agreement or don't they? And how do you explain the confusion? Or can you at this point?
GARRELS: Well, you know, on the one hand, the U.S. has said they're going to leave it to Maliki to deal with the militias. They've said, okay, fine. You've got an agreement with Moqtada Sadr, who they believe is amongst - is one of the leaders of the militias who are conducting a lot of the sectarian killings and responsible for a lot of even inter-Shiite violence. Okay, fine. You deal with that.
But then the U.S. went in today to Sadr City, because there is a red line for the U.S. Okay, fine. If they're killing Iraqis, that's fine. But if these militias are killing American troops, we're not going to tolerate that. We will go after them.
And today, Maliki basically said, I didn't know anything about that operation. I didn't authorize it. He has said this again and again when it's come up when U.S. forces have gone after militias.
CHADWICK: This is this raid, in Sadr City. This is the big Baghdad slum and a neighborhood that's a stronghold for the Shiite cleric and political leader, we'll note -a very important political supporter of Mr. al-Maliki - Moqtada al-Sadr.
So the U.S. goes in because they think there's a bad guy in there. And Mr. al- Maliki…
GARRELS: Well, not just a bad guy. It's a bad guy - most of the attacks on the green zone, on American forces, have been coming out - mortar attacks - have been coming out of Sadr City. I mean, the U.S. has basically said to Maliki privately, listen. Okay, you want to deal with Sadr, you deal with Sadr. But if they attack American troops, we're going after them.
CHADWICK: Well, at this press conference today, at least in the reports that I've read from the Associated Press, Mr. al-Maliki said that's not going to happen again. So it sounds to me as though they're kind of at loggerheads. Do they have an understanding with each other or not?
GARRELS: I don't think they do have an understanding with each other. At least based on Maliki today. And instead of, I mean Maliki said, as you pointed out. Yes I'll go after the militias; I will reign in illegal armed groups. But today he focused entirely on Sunni insurgents, outside people, Iranians, Syrians, basically never really dealt with the militias, has not dealt with the militias. He keeps promising it, promising it, promising it, but there's no there there yet. And this is enormously frustrating to American commanders here.
CHADWICK: We'll see how it plays out in the rest of this week. NPR's Anne Garrels in Baghdad. Thank you Anne.
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