Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Table at Damascus

Again. A little voice is starting to whisper in my head - a little voice that is telling me that we may not make it to SEP, and if we do - it may not matter.

Two very sober voices, Capt. Ed and Allah are hearing that voice, as well as the Good Lt, and they point out some things going on that will trump anything Gen. Petraeus and MNF-I may be doing on the ground.

Remember the Centers of Gravity in Iraq; none of them are military. The center is cracking.
House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months.

The meeting, which ran for an hour and a half Tuesday afternoon, was disclosed by participants yesterday as the House prepared to vote this evening on a spending bill that could cut funding for the Iraq war as early as July. GOP moderates told Bush they would stay united against the latest effort by House Democrats to end U.S. involvement in the war. Even Senate Democrats called the House measure unrealistic.
The Iraqis start to appear beyond hope.
Iraq’s parliament session Thursday ended abruptly amid quarreling in the chamber that reflects the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and the dissatisfaction among politicians with the Nuri al-Maliki government.

Bickering and chaos erupted after a parliamentary delegation read a graphic report describing and cataloguing the tribulations of displaced Shiite families who fled their homes in Diyala province, north and east of Baghdad, for Karbala — a city in the south considered holy by Shiites.

Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani — a controversial Sunni who is not liked by all for his blunt and undiplomatic personality — asked the delegation to present parliament with its recommendations on the problems the families are facing on Saturday. He said the recommendations would then be forwarded to the government.

But the delegation members interpreted al-Mashhadani’s handling of their concerns and his grinning manner as dismissive and disrespectful, and they didn’t like the way other lawmakers greeted the report.
And contradictory.
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…

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…

Al-Rubaie said he personally handed the Iraqi bill to speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani on Wednesday.
And when it comes down to nuts and bolts, as Capt Ed describes, the end-game is closer than you may think.
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.
So far, the Republicans pledge to hang tough on the supplemental and not allow a 60-day funding scheme to pass, and even the Senate Democrats don't much care for that strategy. However, that agreement holds danger for the Bush administration. The Democrats would cheerfully give two more months of funding to get to the beginning of the fiscal year in order to get Republicans behind them for a September showdown on the continuance of the war. If Maliki and the Assembly take two months of vacation in the middle of it, they'll probably return just in time to wave good-bye to the American troops in Baghdad.
This can be won. We are making progress, but the politician's feet of clay is crumbling in front of our eyes. Is my Gandamak at hand? I'm watching the Iraqi lawmakers - and I think of the good people of Iraq - but in my mind I see more and more, in both the US and Iraq, the Table at Damascus.

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