Forholdet mellom David Petraeus og statsminister Nouri al-Maliki skal være meget anstrengt. Maliki skal ha truet med å få ham erstattet. Det er først og fremst bevæpningen av og samarbeidet med sunnier som Maliki ikke tåler.

Han mener at amerikanerne faller ham i ryggen. Men samarbeidet med sunnier som kjemper mot Al Qaida i Anbar-provinsen har vært en av amerikanernes få lyspunkter.

First word of strained relations began leaking out with consistency earlier this month.

Sami al-Askari, a key aide to al-Maliki and a member of the prime minister’s Dawa Party, said the policy of incorporating one-time Sunni insurgents into the security forces shows Petraeus has a «real bias and it bothers the Shiites,» whose communities have been targeted by Sunnis in Iraq’s sectarian conflict.

«It is possible that we may demand his removal,» al-Askari said.

A lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc, who wouldn’t allow use of his name because of the political sensitivity of the matter, said al-Maliki once told Petraeus: «I can’t deal with you anymore. I will ask for someone else to replace you.»

Such a request isn’t likely to get much of a hearing in Washington, where the Bush administration presents Petraeus as one general who can improve the Iraq situation.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Newsweek magazine the Petraeus-al-Maliki relationship is «difficult.» For one thing, the Americans retain control of the Iraqi military. «The prime minister cannot just pick up the phone and have Iraqi army units do what he says. Maliki needs more leverage,» Zebari said.

The prime minister has complained to President Bush about the policy of arming Sunnis, said the Sadrist lawmaker.

«He told Bush that if Petraeus continues doing that, he would arm Shiite militias. Bush told al-Maliki to calm down,» according to this parliament member, who said he was told of the exchange by al-Maliki.

In Washington, White House officials who have sat in on Bush’s video conferences with al-Maliki denied that exchange took place.

In a public outburst earlier this month, al-Maliki said American forces should leave Iraq and turn over security to Iraqi troops. He quickly backpedaled, but the damage was done.

Heat rises between Iraq PM and Petraeus