During his first visit to Washington, in 2006, some U.S. lawmakers tried to prescribe how Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should respond to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon under way at the time. A group of Congressmen sought to strong-arm him into denouncing Hizballah, but instead al-Maliki stuck firm to his condemnation of "Israeli aggression." He may have had to rely on the U.S. military for his security, but Iraq's new Prime Minister was not about to accept U.S. tutelage on regional politics. And in the intervening years, he has proved so adept at managing the balance of power among the various stakeholders in his country that he returns to Washington on July 22 as the Iraqi leader who has politely but firmly shown the U.S. the door.
"My main objective was to be a jazz-playing clown. That kind of worked out."