The commander in Iraq has no intention of doing anything in September but continue what he's doing. At least that's what I take away from his interview with the Times of London:
Times: Your mission sounds like a long one, what about the informal deadline set by your return in mid-September to report back to the Congress in Washington?
Petraeus: That is a deadline for a report not a deadline for a change in policy, at least not that I am aware of. Ambassador Crocker and I intend to go back and provide a snapshot at that time, however focused the photograph is at that time and begin to describe what has been achieved and what has not been achieved and also to provide some sense of implications of courses of action. Neither of us is under any illusion.”
Times: Would you like the surge to continue indefinitely?
Petraeus: It depends on what the sense is for the prospects of achieving Iraq’s constitution.
He seems to believe an oil law might happen soon, but provides no real evidence for that. All in all, Petraeus's assessment of Iraq is strikingly at odds with much of the coverage. He makes no mention of sectarian warfare, no mention of Shiite death squads, no mention of a civil war, and puts the entire blame for the conflict on al Qaeda and Iran. In fact, you get the sense that, in Petraeus' mind, only al Qaeda and Iran are preventing total success in Iraq, and that he is almost preparing for war against Iran as a result. He is certainly extremely adamant about Iran's involvement in recent kidnappings and murders:
They are not rank and file Jaish al-Mahdi. They are trained in Iran, equipped with Iranian (weapons), and advised by Iran. The Iranian involvement here we have found to be much, much more significant that we thought before. They have since about the summer of 2004 played a very, very important role in training in Iran, funding, arming. This is lethal stuff, like EFPs (explosively-formed penetrators), mortars, and rockets that are used against Basra Palace (the main British base in Basra).
Maybe I'm misreading him, but my impression from Petraeus's rhetoric is that those people who believe this war is coming to a close are deluding themselves.
If the Times interview is what Petraeus is telling Bush and Cheney, then they have only begun to ramp up this war in Iraq. My bet is they will try to extend the war into Iran if they can, and are obviously looking for a trigger to do so. But until then, they have no intention of changing a thing, except perhaps putting even more troops on the line. From everything we know about Bush, he will continue on, even if a majority of both Houses oppose war-funding. He doesn't need his party any more. Only a veto-proof margin will suffice, and if that happens, expect a massive Rudy-driven, Romney-approved "stab-in-the-back" campaign, accusing all critics of being supporters of Iran or al Qaeda. Or Bush will force the Congress to cut off all funds, and then declare the troops abandoned and betrayed by the "enemy within".
Of course I hope I'm wrong. But what evidence do we have that Cheney ever bends to a reality he cannot shape? We need to remember. In Bush's and Cheney's view, they're still the deciders. The task for the rest of us is to follow them and shut up. We got one "accountability moment" to affect the war in 2004, and we don't get a second one. The Congress? Bush and Cheney don't really believe any other branch of government has any right to affect war-policy. This is their war, not the American people's. And they will expand and extend it as aggressively as they can, regardless of the consequences.
(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty.)