In the Arena

Iraq Two Step

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The Washington Post is positing September as the decision point on Iraq. Maybe…but the more interesting news here is the proposed House funding legislation which I think is quite clever:

House Democratic leaders are coming together around legislation that would fund the war through September but would withhold more than half of those funds until July, when Bush would have to report on the Iraqi government’s progress toward benchmarks such as quelling sectarian violence, disarming militias and sharing oil revenue equitably. Congress would then have to vote in late July to release the remaining funds.

This may be the sort of compromise many Republicans have been looking for, one that puts not-so-gentle pressure on Bush without a timetable. And it has clear political advantages for Democrats: It would force another vote out of the Republicans in July–an even tougher pro-war vote than the ones they’re now having to take–and then another in September. More important, it will put the focus precisely where it should be: on whether the Iraqi government can get its act together. (There isn’t a scintilla of evidence that it can.)
A lot of this depends on General Petraeus, who has made it clear–in his way–that his tactics have no chance of success without a stable Iraqi partner. Kevin Drum suspects that Petraeus will fudge when it comes time for an evaluation in September. I’m not so sure of that; I know him to be an intellectually honest guy. It will surely be a crucial moment in his military career–a fact that will be of no small importance to him. More important, I can’t see him condoning the continuing loss of life if his tactics, given a fair test, have no chance of succeeding. But–classic newsweekly kicker here–we’ll just have to wait and see.