Iraq study group wraps up talks
WASHINGTON — A blue-ribbon study panel on Iraq completed deliberations Wednesday and announced plans to release a report next week that is expected to reject both a large U.S. troop increase and a quick U.S. withdrawal.In other words "stay the course". It is also becoming obvious that the situation on the ground may not make it possible for Bush to push responsibility for his failed mission in Iraq onto the next administration.
Shi'ites, Sunnis amass arms
Rival Shi'ite and Sunni groups are massing their militias in expectation of major confrontations, Iraqis say, even as President Bush prepares to meet today with the nation's embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.So when will the US withdraw from Iraq? Just look for flocks of helicopters landing in the Green Zone and taking off again as soon as they can be loaded. Yes, once again we are simply waiting of that "Helicopters On the Roof" moment.
Mr. Bush's meeting in Jordan is part of a wider attempt to involve Iraq's neighbors in efforts to end Iraq's vicious sectarian violence before it spills over into a larger regional conflict.
But Iraqis on both sides of their nation's sectarian divide report worrisome signs that the conflict will soon evolve into pitched battles between large armed groups.
One secular Shi'ite speaking on the telephone from Baghdad said Shi'ite militias were massing in preparation for a large offensive against Sunnis in the capital.
"They had a big militarylike ceremony today for the Mahdi militia, to show their force. They are making themselves ready for something big -- protests, fighting, killing," said the Shi'ite.
A secular Sunni in close contact with one insurgent faction, said rebel Sunnis were also trying to form alliances among militias for a big push in the city against the Shi'ites, including more raids on government buildings.
"I am waiting for the Sunnis to launch a 'Tet Offensive.' That is the one plug they have not pulled yet, and I could see that happening," said senior Rand defense analyst Ed O'Connell.