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May 08, 2007

Byron York: Why Not Have Deadlines?

The slow bleed of support from the President -- and the Iraqi government -- continues.

It's an article of faith in Republican circles that Congress should not impose deadlines on the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. But should deadlines be off limits in the Iraq debate? Maybe at this point, a deadline for the Iraqi government wouldn't be a bad thing.

Yes, it's true that a deadline would simply tell the enemy how long he has to wait before the U.S. leaves. But it would have the same effect on the Iraqi government, too, and that might be a good thing. Every instance in which there has been significant progress in Iraq — the writing of a constitution, election of a legislature, etc. — has come as a result of the U.S. pushing the Iraqis to meet a deadline. Without a deadline, they mess around, and mess around some more, and act as if they have all the time in the world. And even with a deadline, they are likely to miss it and delay until the last minute before getting anything done.

Meanwhile, Sunnis are threatening, and probably planning, to completely withdraw from the Iraqi government, due to the goverment's resistance to any pass any of the constitutional amendments they consider necessary for preserving their political voice and securing a chunk of the oil money.

And of course several moderate GOP senators may jump to the anti-war side come September, apparently their unofficial deadline for substantial progress in the war.

Weigheing against this welter of bad news is the fact that Anbar province seems well on the way towards stabilization, and, perhaps, relative security.

Remember this story? Ah yes, just 7 months ago Al Anbar was "lost."

Amidst my travels to neighborhood watch centers and police stations where local Sunni Muslims who have porn on their cell phones are playing hard ball against AQIZ types who would ban porn on cell phones I forgot all about this article in the WaPo last September.

Anbar is so "lost" now politically that there is a waiting list for anbaris to join the IA and IP.

It is so lost, that in the AO I hope to visit next the local Sheiks have declared war on AQIZ and the neighboring tribe supporting AQIZ.

It is so lost, the local neighborhood watch centers deliver captured IEDs to Marine Combat Outposts.

It is so wildly stinking lost that...wait, it is not lost.

In fact, the situation has flipped so much in 7 months that the heavy lifting in Al Anbar may be coming to a close--the heavy lifting being the political work of flipping the tribes to support the coalition and take charge of their own security.

But there's a storm coming:

As the Sunnis who supported AQIZ now flip to supporting the coalition, and the tribes take control of security in their villages and transition from neighborhood watch to provisional forces to sworn police officers, AQIZ will have little recourse but to escalate and assert themselves.

I predict that the Summer of 2007 could be one of the most violent in the history of this Emergency. As troops surge in and create gated communities in the cities, as battalions flood into combat outposts in the tribal areas on the River valley, AQIZ will have two choices, go to ground and give the coalition a hollow victory--which means a longer permanent garrison--or escalate the level of violence to show the surge is not working.

This Summer is when the rubber does meet the road in Iraq. It is make or break for all sides. But Anbar is far from lost.

Although I take Byron York's point about timelines, the primary reason to resist them is simple: It's a go signal to AQ to start racheting up the bodycount.

If I had to guess at the future, I'd say the most likely "exit strategy" -- assuming that victory-as-an-exit-strategy is unacheivable, will be a last-ditch effort by America to strongarm the Iraqi government, consisting, somewhat cynically but understandably, of demanding the Iraqis take actions we know they will outright refuse. These demands will be calculated to provide a pretext for the withdrawal of US troops or, even better, the request of the Iraqi government that US troops leave the country.

Formally legislated or not, the US is on a timetable for withdrawal as a practical matter.

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posted by Ace at 05:19 PM

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