Dems cave on Iraq bill, withdraw timetable demand

Captain Ed’s expecting riots in nutrootsville. What for? Between the rumors about Gordon Brown pulling out and Republicans defecting in numbers to the anti-war side in September if things don’t change, they might as well just give Bush his money and stand back. It denies the GOP any excuse with which to blame them later if/when things finally go irretrievably south, which has always been one of their utmost concerns. In fact, the Iraqi defense minister acknowledged today for the first time that he’s drawing up contingency plans for an abrupt American pullout. Everyone knows the score.

Bush isn’t going to ride Maliki all the way down the hill if things don’t turn around soon, whatever he might have said on the phone today.

Intervention “is the eternal temptation for the Americans,” said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing internal deliberations. “As we get closer and closer to the fall, and the benchmarks are not met … there will be a growing appeal to the idea that if we can replace the top guy, we can get back on track.”…

A party headed by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, with quiet backing from Saudis, Egyptians and Persian Gulf emirates, has been seeking allies among Iraqi groups and in Washington, U.S. officials said. Hoping to build support, Allawi’s allies from neighboring countries tried to arrange for him to attend the meeting on Iraq in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik this month. The plan was abandoned when Maliki threatened to refuse to take part if his would-be successor was there as well.

Meanwhile, the party long known as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the largest Shiite Muslim faction, has been changing its image to make itself appear more in the mainstream — “more presentable,” said the U.S. official. In one such sign, the group announced recently that it was dropping the word “revolution” from its name. It is now known as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Allawi’s probably the favorite given his history of being tough on Sadr, the fact that he has the Sunnis’ approval, and the advantage, unlike SCIRI, of not controlling any militia of his own.

Speaking of contingency plans, an unnamed military officer tells WaPo that the military has a plan to invade Sadr City as a last ditch “second Fallujah” operation in case they can’t secure political cooperation from the locals. According to another officer stationed in the area, “everyone is affiliated” with the JAM. He’s not kidding, either: read the excerpt at Danger Room about Shiite militia infiltration of police squads, a development years in the making.