It was more of an implicit strategy than an explicit one, but holding September out as the key moment for Iraq analysis was a way for Republicans to push off their short-term problems. Dems wanted a withdrawal timeline now. By insisting that policy makers wait until Gen. David Petraeus reports on Iraq’s progress in September, the GOP bought itself four months.
Now that everyone realizes that September will not show any real progress, the trick for the administration is figuring out how to lower expectations — and redefine “success.”
U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success.
In September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, is scheduled to present Congress with an assessment of progress in Iraq. Military officers in Baghdad and outside advisors working with Petraeus doubt that the three major goals set by U.S. officials for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki will be achieved by then.
Enactment of a new law to share Iraq’s oil revenue among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is the only goal they think might be achieved in time, and even that is considered a long shot. The two other key benchmarks are provincial elections and a deal to allow more Sunni Arabs into government jobs.
Be prepared for a series of almost comical examples of “progress.”