But votes didn't matter to the US government, now led by Barack Obama. John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (The Daily Beast) explains:
As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
And since the end of 2011, things have gotten even worse.
Now the Kurdish Regional Government and Nouri's Baghdad-based government are at loggerheads.
Over what else: Disputed territories.
In 2006, Nouri became prime minister and was mandated, by the Constitution's Article 140, to hold a census and a referendum in Kirkuk. This is how it and other disputed areas would be decided, per the Constitution written in 2005.
Nouri refused to honor the Constitution.
Kirkuk is especially sensitive for historical reasons and because it is oil-rich.
March 25, 2009, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Barack Obama's nomination of the idiot Chris Hill to be US Ambassador in Iraq. In his opening remarks, Commitee Chair John Kerry would observe:
First, resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Arab - Kurdish tensions run high in Kirkuk, which remains a potential flashpoint for violence, and meaningful efforts to reach agreement on Kirkuk's final status cannot be put off indefinitely. In Mosul, a strong showing in recent provincial elections by an anti-Kurdish coalition illustrated rising tensions there, as did a tense military standoff in Diyala province last summer between the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga . If progress is not made in defusing Arab-Kurdish tensions while American forces remain in Iraq, the window for a peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and other disputed territories may close.
Though the Chair of the Committee grasped the importance of Kirkuk, the nominee, Chris Hill, did not. He couldn't speak coherently about Kirkuk and, at one point, termed it "just an old fashioned land dispute" much to the visible shock of several senators sitting on the Committee.
Even so, he was confirmed and eventually made it to Iraq where he did Nouri's bidding, attempted to undermined General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq at the time, had a hissy fit that he wasn't getting more media attention so demanded the White House tell Odierno he couldn't do anymore interviews and basically was a real bitch. And Barack and the other idiots though Chrissy Hill was amazing and insightful -- because they wanted to think that. Only when then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates brought Odierno to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, many months after Nouri had refused to honor the results of the 2010 elections, and after the White House had decided to back second place Nouri, did the White House realize that Chris Hill was a problem.
The administration then nominated -- and the Senate confirmed -- James Jeffrey to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. Apparently, the takeaway from the Hill debacle was that they had listened too closely to their ambassador so, to fix that, the White House repeatedly refused to listen to Jeffrey who was very clear that there were serious problems in Iraq, serious problems with Nouri al-Maliki (something the State Dept had noted prior to 2008 and put down on paper) and Jeffrey would grow frustrated and leave before serving two years in the post. Then came the swinger Brett McGurk who the administration wanted six months ago. They wanted him because the White House continues to work on putting (more) US troops back into Iraq. McGurk was good at weasel words and managed to come up with wording in 2008 for the Status Of Forces Agreement that both Nouri and the Bush White House could live with. (It helped that there was a bit of ambiguity between the English version and the Arabic translation.) Brett was there boy and he would get (more) US troops back into Iraq.
A sex scandal blew him out of the water. Eventually Robert S. Beecroft would be nominated and John Kerry would work overtime to see him quickly confirmed.
None of it has any effect on Nouri. In part, that's because Nouri knows -- from his discussions with McGurk (he didn't get Senate approval but the administration continues to use him in talks to send troops back into Iraq because Nouri like Brett McGurk) -- that the US has some serious wants right now. So he can do pretty much what he wants and the US will go along.
Last week, former US Secretary of State Condi Rice showed up with a column that explained how Nouri continues to hold the US hostage -- though that wasn't Condi's intent when she wrote, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."
Yes, someday Nouri may get tough with Iran like the White House wants.
The White House wanted him to inspect Iranian planes flying over Iraq into Syria.
Insisted publicly it would never happen.
Then John Kerry declared in a public hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Beecroft's confirmation hearing) that the Congress could cut off funding to Iraq (which is still costing US tax payers billions of new tax dollars each year) and, after grumbling about the threat, suddenly Nouri started doing inspections -- at least for-show inspections.
The White House is a joke. Most Iraqi observers (not US citizens, not people with any ability to vote in the 2008 elections) felt Barack whored out everything when he met Nouri in the summer of 2008 and that he has little he can do now -- especially out of fear that Nouri will go on record about their conversation when Barack was a first-term US Senator desperately needing some foreign policy cred.
Nouri calls the shots. And that would be a good thing if he'd been picked by the Iraqi people. But thing is, Iraqis are no different than anyone else. They're not fond of thugs who have protesters beat up. They don't really like the idea of secret prisons where people are held and tortured. They're not real fond of a lack of public services and a lack of jobs. And they're not real fond of the fact that their 2010 votes didn't count and they're still stuck with the guy the US government installed -- a chicken s**t exile who fled Iraq decades ago and only returned after the US invaded in 2003.
Now this chicken s**t, this coward who fled the country while they all lived under Saddam Hussein, this coward is their leader? Because the US government says so?
Nouri wants to take control of the disputed areas.
The people to feel most sorry for right now are the Kurds because President of Iraq Jalal Talabani pretends he gives a damn (Jalal is a Kurd) but he repeatedly sells out the Kurdish interests. Even now, he's telling KRG President Massoud Barzani that they can trust the US government "this time" -- "this time." The same government which has repeatedly screwed over the Kurds since 2009. Yes, since Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, since the 'great friend of the Kurds' Joe Biden became Vice President.
But it takes a friend to really screw you over. A stranger can only con you.
And now Joe Biden, who gave his word in 2010 that the US government would stand by the Erbil Agreement (a contract signed in November 2010 in which Nouri guaranteed certain things to the political blocs if they'd ignore the vote and grant him a second term), is on the telephone offering more promises. While at the same time, in Baghdad, US diplomats are telling Nouri he just needs to lower his profile and just for a few weeks, let things calm down and then, in 2013, he can pursue his obejctives.