Blair’s gone, centrist Republicans are in revolt, the Iraqi parliament’s planning to take a little summer vay-cay while U.S. troops are busy dodging IEDs, and now this. It’s a perfect storm. I think it’s safe to say we’re at endgame.
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.
It doesn’t say which parties the 144 come from, but I noted last night that the Sadrists have been cuddling up to the Sunnis lately, presumably to broker exactly this kind of deal. I still don’t understand why the Sunnis would sign off on that unless some companion deal has been struck granting them de facto sovereignty over Anbar and a promise, for what little it’s worth, that the Shiites will keep out. Gates told Congress yesterday that a pullout would see Anbar transformed into an Al Qaeda base, but if this vacation thing goes through, I don’t think the American public’s going to care:
To many U.S. policymakers, the vacation has become a symbol of a lack of will by Iraqis to tackle the country’s deep divisions. An extended break this summer also would have important practical implications: The administration plans an assessment of its “surge” strategy in September and has promised to measure its success based on Iraqi political reforms and reconciliation policies, legislation that cannot be passed if the parliament is not in session.
Gates called the idea “unacceptable,” to which Iraq’s smartass parliamentary speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said this:
In a barb at the Bush administration, he said those behind the criticism of Iraq’s parliament would make better use of their time trying to counter criticism by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is leading a campaign against U.S. President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.
“You had better try and control Nancy Pelosi rather than Mahmoud al-Mashhadani,” the speaker said.
Captain Ed puts it succinctly:
If the Iraqis walk away from the Assembly without any [reforms] 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.
Ed also explains, in similar small words, to John Aravosis why the Democrats would be smart not to put up a fuss about war spending at this point and just give Bush the money he needs, a point I made myself on Tuesday. If they cut him a check, it leaves the looming failure in his hands alone, which is what they’ve been after all along.
Update: Very good news on a very bad day — the Patriquin plan is taking root in AQ’s new home base, Diyala province.
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.
Update: With the political winds against him, Bush starts to bend.
Update: Reader D.J. Elliott e-mails to point out this excerpt, which suggests passage of the Iraqi bill is no sure thing:
Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said he had backed the draft but only on the condition that the withdrawal timetable be linked to a schedule for training and equipping Iraq’s security forces.
“But the sponsors of the legislation did not include our observations in the draft. This is deception,” he said.