As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to “double down” in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory…
[I]nside the Pentagon, the [Iraq Study Group’s] overall proposals are widely seen as a withdrawal plan — and a recipe for massive ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
They want as many as 40,000 more troops and, to make sure no one’s going to call off the dogs once they’re unleashed, a shuffle within the Iraqi government, which is almost certainly what Bush’s meeting with Iraq’s Sunni vice president was about yesterday. Some experts are knocking the plan on grounds that you can’t kill your way to victory here. You can’t not kill your way to victory either, though — we tried that by turning al-Sadr onto politics and look where it got us. Gen. Chiarelli wants to split the difference by introducing an aggressive jobs program alongside the military maneuvers to give would-be jihadists an alternative to fighting.
This is surely weighing in the brass’s mind, too, as they come around to a build up:
Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.
Update: Er, someone had better check with the Iraqis first.
Iraq has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year. American troops would be shifted to the periphery of the capital.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said in an interview that the plan was presented during the meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30 between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
“I think it is extremely important they reduce their visibility and they reduce their presence,” Mr. Rubaie said of the American troops in Baghdad. “They should be in the suburbs within greater Baghdad.”