Donald Lambro

Clearly, Jaafari has lost whatever support he had. It is reported that Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, which won more than 30 seats in the parliament in December, has withdrawn its support for the prime minister.

Both Rice and Straw made it clear they had every right to press the Iraqis for some movement toward a new government. The U.S. and Great Britain have paid for that right with the blood of their soldiers, Straw told them. Rice spoke frankly of the "human treasure" the two nations, among others, had sacrificed over the past three years in behalf of the Iraqis.

Now it was up to them to show that the sacrifice had been worth it. "The American people want to see Iraq succeed, but they want to see Iraq progress toward success," she said.

Until now, the U.S. has not taken sides in the jockeying and trade-offs for leadership in the new government, but that posture underwent a noticeable change Sunday. The body language (if not the diplomatic signs) was clear: Jaafari had to go, and a stronger leader had to be put in his place.

"When the two (Rice and Straw) met with Jaafari in front of reporters, the tension was noticeable," the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reported. "Rice sat with a frozen smile as she and Jaafari made awkward conversation about the stormy weather outside."

After a meeting described as "frosty" by Kessler, at which Rice bluntly criticized Jaafari's inability to pull the warring factions together, Rice said the Iraqis had "to get a prime minister who can form a government."

The dark clouds hanging over that meeting were in sharp contrast to the sunny atmosphere at a later meeting with Vice President Mahdi, who came close to upsetting Jaafari as prime minister in February. "It's wonderful to see you," Rice gushed several times.

Jaafari's replacement may happen sooner rather than later, and, if it does, Rice and Straw will get much of the credit for the change in direction. If their mission to Baghdad could be summed up in a few words, it would be "no more Mr. Nice Guy."

The time for diplomatic schmoozing was over. America's best and bravest have given their lives so the Iraqis would have the freedom to choose their own government. They had better act soon, for our patience is coming to an end.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.