Wednesday, May 16, 2007
let down and hanging around:
It hasn't even been a month since Washington started salivating for General Petraeus's September report on the surge's success or failure, and sure enough, Petraeus has to take a bib to everyone's mouth. From his interview with Jane Arraf for IraqSlogger:

“Clearly they have to show that they are willing to reconcile and that they can make some progress in some legislative areas to give hope to some of the people there that perhaps could put some time on the Washington clock...Come September, I don’t think we’ll have anything definitive in September (although) certainly we’ll have some indicators on the political side in Iraq.”

Now, about that reconciliation. If the surge hasn't come completely unmoored from its original purpose, it exists to support the creation of a centripetal political force in Baghdad. Petraeus, chief architect of the new counterinsurgency manual, would be out of character if he separated his assessment of political progress from that of his military efforts. So if he and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are prepping to assess the state of Iraqi cohesion, then the September report ought to focus on whether the surge has been overtaken by the increasingly calamitous politics of Iraq. NPR, via Ann:

In Parliament last week, Shiite lawmaker Shatha al-Mousawi was complaining bitterly about her recent visit with displaced Shiites from Diyala province. They were expelled from their homes because of sectarian violence.

It's intolerable that the government allows this bloodshed to happen, she said, demanding that the prime minister and other top officials be summoned to Parliament to respond.

The speaker of Parliament reacted to her emotional diatribe with laughter.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, said he was laughing to conceal his pain at the situation in which the Shiites of Diyala found themselves. But Shiite parliamentarians openly scolded him for his seemingly coldhearted reaction, and he in turn began attacking them.

"Three-quarters of those sitting here are responsible for the displacements and the sectarian killings, and now you're calling yourselves patriots?" he thundered.

Iraqi politics will never be "over." There is no discernible point at which a sectarian war will become "full-fledged." Petraeus and Crocker need to make judgment calls on when the situation defies American remedy. That really ought to be visible by September.
--Spencer Ackerman