War support crumbles as top Iraqis plead: Pullout means likely civil war; Update: McCain not expected to urge new course after Iraq trip

Relax. If things get hairy, we’ve always got that New York Times “international pressure” plan to fall back on.

“This could produce a civil war, partition of the country and a regional war. We might see the country collapse,” Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told a news conference when asked about the New York Times report…

“We in Iraq believe, not just the government, but all political parties, that the presence of these forces is necessary to prevent increasing violence and to stop the country sliding into civil war,” Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told Reuters.

Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said: “I would be very happy to see the last American soldier leave today … We understand their worry about not seeing much political progress in Iraq. But the problem is: who will fill the security vacuum if these forces withdraw?”

So there’s one (and maybe the only) thing the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds all agree on. The Times piece referenced in the blockquote isn’t the notorious editorial, FYI, it’s this bombshell about intensive meetings at the White House to game out when and how Bush is going to announce the now inevitable troop drawdown. (Tony Snow denied today that any such meetings are happening.) They were hoping to wait until Petraeus’s progress report in September, but with Lugar, Domenici, Warner, and Voinovich all jumping ship and McCain possibly ready to announce that his trip to Baghdad made him see the Iraqi parliament is hopelessly deadlocked, they may have to promise some form of withdrawal now to keep stop any more defections.

Officials describe the meetings as more of a running discussion than an argument. They say that no one is clinging to a stay-the-course position but that instead aides are trying to game out what may happen if the president becomes more specific about the start and the shape of what the White House is calling a “post-surge redeployment.”…

They described [NSA Stephen] Hadley as deeply concerned that the loss of Republicans could accelerate this week, a fear shared by Mr. Rove. But they also said that Mr. Rove had warned that if Mr. Bush went too far in announcing a redeployment, the result could include a further cascade of defections — and the passage of legislation that would force a withdrawal by a specific date, a step Mr. Bush has always said he would oppose…

One thing that may be working in Mr. Bush’s favor is the calendar. If he can get through the next three weeks without more defections, Congress will go into recess until September, returning just as the report from Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker arrives in Washington.

The strategy now will probably be to push Baker-Hamilton as a compromise since the involvement of Republicans in that at least gives the Senate GOP some weak political cover to claim that their side helped craft the new plan. Otherwise they’re stuck having to follow Reid and the Democrats’ down whatever unholy path that might lead. Gates is reportedly a fan of B-H, as is Mitch McConnell, and unlike the Times’s plan it does at least provide for some small combat force in country to target Al Qaeda — the same Al Qaeda which, thankfully, we now know from our friends on the left barely has a presence in Iraq and isn’t connected to Osama Bin Laden anyway and, per Jack Murtha, will be routed by Iraqis the very minute we leave. Having U.S. troops sit by a la the Dutch at Srebrenica while Iraqis massacre each other will be more of a problem, but supporters of withdrawal have already made a rough peace with that idea no matter whether, like Mort Kondracke, they’re willing to admit to it or whether they’re sufficiently ashamed that they feel obliged to cloak it in some ludicrous “international pressure” faux solution. And as the Journal notes, ironically, the Republicans who now are looking to get on the “right” side of the debate for electoral reasons may find themselves on the wrong side if, god forbid, that’s how things shake out:

Republicans may think they can distance themselves from all this, but they’ll get no credit from voters if they contribute to an ugly outcome in Iraq. Their best prospect for making Iraq less important in 2008 is military progress that allows for a reduction in U.S. forces with honor and a more stable Iraqi government. A divided Republican caucus that undercuts America’s military efforts while chasing the mirage of bipartisan comity will only make their own election defeat more likely.

According to Bob Novak, GOP waverers touted B-H to Hadley last week when he met with them to try to persuade them — unsuccessfully — to wait until September before cutting bait. That wasn’t the only subject of conversation, though:

Always deferential, Hadley took copious notes. But he did more than listen. Based on what Hadley said, one senator concluded that “they just do not recognize the depth of the difficulty they are in.” That difficulty entails running out of troops in nine months. Hadley increased latent fears of the U.S. military being made the fall guy — a concern shared by many retired and some active senior officers, including a current infantry division commander.

I don’t know what he means by “running out of troops in nine months” unless he means the tour for surge troops will be over, but as far as Bush trying to blame the military for forcing a withdrawal, even he doesn’t have that much hubris. If he’s that desperate for a scapegoat, the obvious thing to do is to refuse a withdrawal and force Congress to end the war itself by cutting the funds. That would be a pathetic end, but not half so pathetic as trying to blame guys that are already on extended tours to sustain a two-front war for four years, particularly after not sending enough troops at the start of the war and not talking seriously about expanding the military until very recently.

Let’s see how much good the warning today from Iraqi pols does with the GOP waverers. Not much, I expect, given the electoral pressure they’re feeling, but between that and the Iraqi NSA claiming yesterday that he expects them to meet the political benchmarks by September (assuming they haven’t been completely rewritten by then), maybe it’ll convince a few to give it an extra two months.

Go read this post by INDC Bill about his conversation with a (former) Iraqi insurgent. Too late.

Update: The Times piece quoted White House sources as saying much would depend on McCain’s progress report after he got back from Iraq. If he’s abandoning ship, everyone will. According to sources in the know, he’s not abandoning ship.

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