The heart of this latest discontent springs from the Iraqi National Assembly's deliberation over whether to take a two-month summer break. Everyone has criticized that proposal, whether it be supporters or critics of the war. The surge intends to give the Iraqis a small window of opportunity in which to normalize relations between the sects, finalize plans for oil revenue distribution, settle political disputes, and hold local elections to shore up the democratic process in the provinces.Yes there has been no progress on the political front and this is not a surprise to anyone who actually understood the region. Iraq was always an artificial country made up of tribes and sects for hundreds of years. The only way it could be held together was with a strong tyrant much like Tito in the former Yugoslavia. When Tito died Yugoslavia came apart. Even General Petraeus has admitted there can be no military solution in Iraq, only a political one and it is obvious that is not in the offing. Yes the crumbling support for the war will soon include many Republicans. Not because it's right but because of political necessity.
If the Iraqis walk away from the Assembly without any of that getting accomplished, and then spend two months without making any effort at all, the war effort is over. The surge will be a dead letter in Congress, and almost certainly Republicans will start to consider defunding as an option as well as Democrats. Dick Cheney understands this, which is why he made a surprise visit to Maliki to explain the situation in small words.
A two-month vacation by the Assembly will leave the US with one of two options. Either we continue to fight al-Qaeda in Anbar and Diyala and move out of Baghdad to secure the Iraqi-Iranian border, or we dump the whole project into the laps of the Saudis and Egyptians and wish them the best of luck. If those were the only two choices, I would argue that we should adopt the former. We need to keep engaged with AQ where we find them, and a retreat from Baghdad will prove mobilizing enough to the jihadists. A retreat from Anbar, just when we have the local tribes switching to our side, will be exponentially worse for our prestige in the region, and will embolden AQ.
And speaking of the Iraqis, it appears they are ready to be heard.
Iraqi bill demands U.S. troops withdraw
BAGHDAD - A majority of Iraqi lawmakers have endorsed a bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and demanding a freeze on the number of foreign troops already in the country, lawmakers said Thursday.Ed Morrisey looks at what this all means:
The legislation was being debated even as U.S. lawmakers were locked in a dispute with the White House over their call to start reducing the size of the U.S. force here in the coming months.
The Iraqi bill, drafted by a parliamentary bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was signed by 144 members of the 275-member house, according to Nassar al-Rubaie, the leader of the Sadrist bloc.
The Sadrist bloc, which sees the U.S.-led forces as an occupying army, has pushed similar bills before, but this was the first time it had garnered the support of a majority of lawmakers.
The bill would require the Iraqi government to seek approval from parliament before it requests an extension of the U.N. mandate for foreign forces to be in Iraq, al-Rubaie said. It also calls for a timetable for the troop withdrawal and a freeze on the size of the foreign forces.
This puts new pressure on the Bush administration, especially regarding the surge. The US may have expected Sadr to push back with his militias, but he’s craftier than that. Sadr knew his Mahdi army would not survive against the American troops, so he chose a political path to defeat the surge instead. And it’s working.
If Bush loses the support of the Iraqi government for the Baghdad security plan, then it’s finished. A vote against the American presence would kick out the last struts of support for the Iraq war here at home. If the Iraqis request an end to the UN mandate before it runs out in December, we lose our international standing for the operation as well.
Rightwing - war supporting site Wizbang! has a surprisingly rational reaction to the above.
If the 144-member bloc holds, this spells the end for American involvement in Iraq. It essentially says they don't want us cleaning the place up any more, and there is no way the Administration can sustain congressional or public support for the war under those circumstances.But how will they be able to blame it on the Democrats? Yea, I know they will try.
We turned sovereignty back to the Iraqis some time ago, and we have to respect that. Interesting that Sadr is able to achieve politically what he could not do "on the ground." The only hope would be the intervention of Ayatollah al-Sistani - and there is no reason to expect that is forthcoming.