David Ignatius has an Op Ed in the Washington Post today on Dick (Lord of Darkness) Cheney's trip to the Middle East - specifically to Saudi Arabia.
The Cheney visit is aimed partly at mutual reassurance. Both sides want to reaffirm the alliance, despite disagreements over Iraq policy and the Palestinian issue. The Saudis also want to establish an additional channel for communication so they can avoid misunderstandings that have sometimes arisen when the primary intermediary is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the freewheeling former Saudi ambassador to Washington who is now national security adviser.And then there is this:
Abdullah had seemed to be distancing himself from Washington in some recent comments. In February, he broke with U.S. efforts to isolate the radical Palestinian group Hamas by sponsoring the Mecca Agreement that created a Palestinian "unity government" fusing Hamas with the more moderate Fatah. In March, he surprised U.S. officials by calling the military occupation of Iraq "illegitimate" in a speech to an Arab League summit in Riyadh. He also nixed plans for a White House dinner in April.
Abdullah's criticism of the "illegitimate" American presence in Iraq reflects the Saudi leader's deep misgivings about U.S. strategy there. Saudi sources say the king has given up on the ability of Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to overcome sectarian divisions and unite the country. The Saudi leadership is also said to believe that the U.S. troop surge is likely to fail, deepening the danger of all-out civil war in Iraq.
The ferment in the region is driven partly by the perception that U.S. troops are on the way out, no matter what the Bush administration says. To dampen such speculation, Bush is said to have told the Saudis that America will not withdraw from Iraq during his presidency. "That gives us 18 months to plan," said one Saudi source.So there is a time line but it's not September, 2007 but January, 2009. That would seem to fit with recent comments by Condolezza Rice and this;
Commanders in Iraq See 'Surge' Into '08
Pentagon to Deploy 35,000 Replacement TroopsBottom line - we will have 100,000 plus troops in Iraq as long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are in office. If you want to end the US occupation of Iraq you must prematurely end the regime of Bush and Cheney.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that 35,000 soldiers in 10 Army combat brigades will begin deploying to Iraq in August as replacements, making it possible to sustain the increase of U.S. troops there until at least the end of this year.
U.S. commanders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that heightened troop levels, announced by President Bush in January, will need to last into the spring of 2008. The military has said it would assess in September how well its counterinsurgency strategy, intended to pacify Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, is working.
"The surge needs to go through the beginning of next year for sure," said Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the day-to-day commander for U.S. military operations in Iraq. The new requirement of up to 15-month tours for active-duty soldiers will allow the troop increase to last until spring, said Odierno, who favors keeping experienced forces in place for now.
Our friend Cernig has a well deserved I Hate To Say I Told You So... over at NewsHoggers