Details of a leaked memo which raises doubts about PM Nouri Maliki's ability to control sectarian violence in Iraq have been published in the US.
The Bush administration says the memo was meant to 'support' Maliki
According to the New York Times, the memo was sent by President George Bush's national security adviser to top US officials on 8 November.
It suggests the White House take extra steps to strengthen the PM's hand.
News of the memo comes as Mr Bush is in the Middle East to meet Mr Maliki to discuss Iraq's security situation.
"His [Mr Maliki's] intentions seem good when he talks to the Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change", the memo written by adviser Stephen Hadley says.
"But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions."
White House spokesman Tony Snow, who is travelling with Mr Bush, said the chief aim of the memo was "to support Maliki and enhance his capabilities".
Among the suggestions in the memo is that Mr Maliki distance himself from the anti-US Shia leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, and that Washington should help him put together a new, more moderate, less sectarian political alliance.
But given Mr Maliki's political background as a Shia Islamist, he looks unlikely to do either of these things, says the BBC's Middle East analyst Roger Hardy.