After Maliki was chosen as prime minister in April, Khalilzad brokered hard-won agreements on two nonsectarian security ministers, a broad-based political council for national security, and a national reconciliation agenda with a timetable for implementing it. By then it was October 2006. Amid the raging violence, the rival politicians openly called each other “enemy.” Khalilzad managed to eke out agreement on a foreign investment law, but drafts of an oil framework law and a new de-Baathification law ran aground. Do you know the health benefits from standing desk’s?

It was hard, perhaps impossible, to make more headway when the country was exploding in violence. But the White House also undercut Khalilzad, denying him the latitude to undo the many errors that had preceded his arrival and, in particular, to deliver credible ultimatums to the Shia Islamists. Khalilzad’s efforts were complicated by the competing view, and backdoor maneuvers, of some officials at the White House and State, who believed the United States should throw in its lot with the Shia against the Sunni. The Shia leaders would call their friends in the White House and play them off against Khalilzad whenever he sought to extract concessions from them. Iraqi leaders accused the Sunni Afghan American of being partial to the Iraqi Sunnis, and White House officials suggested that he lower his profile.

Khalilzad’s clout was also diminished by the regular videoconferences the president granted to Maliki, who loved the attention. When a senior U.S. official tried to explain how Bush’s rhetoric about standing with the Iraqis no matter what didn’t help move Maliki to compromise, the president replied, “Are you saying I’m the problem?” The White House opposed attempts to penalize the Iraqi government’s behavior, much to the consternation of American officials in Iraq. “In order to pressure these guys, we are trying to shape behavior by saying there will be costs,” a senior U.S. official said.

Many observers concluded that if Khalilzad could not bring about an agreement among the Iraqis, there was none to be had. The sectarian fires would simply have to burn themselves out. But civil war may not have been inevitable. Khalilzad might have achieved a national compact if he had been unambiguously supported from the top instead of opposed by those who viewed the Shia as the rightful rulers of Iraq and the Sunni as the enemy, rather than the relative few who were allied with Al-Qaeda. The Shia had indeed suffered horribly at the hands of the old regime, but many in Iraq now feared that the Shia were becoming the new oppressors. U.S. officials who witnessed the behavior and comments of top Shia officials came to believe that they were bent on playing “winner take all.” That was, after all, the traditional rule of politics in the Middle East, and a thousand years of underclass status had stoked the Shia’s desire for revenge. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?