The Sunnis cash in their chips
Xinhua reports: "Iraq's parliament on Saturday passed a controversial law on reinstatement of former Saddam's Baath Party members to government jobs. The parliament passed the Accountability and Justice bill to replace the de-Baathification law, which banned Saddam's supporters from participating in the public life in the country after the collapse of Saddam's regime by a U.S.-led coalition in 2003. The bill, which was considered by Washington as vital to give a push to the reconciliation efforts in war-torn country, was passed unanimously by 143 lawmakers who attended the Saturday's session of the 270-member parliament."
Reconciliation has been politically purchased by Sunni participation in the Surge. Iraq has come back from the brink of civil war. This development doesn't necessarily mean the road forward is smooth, but at least the bus has been pulled back from the cliff's edge. The new situation created by victories on the ground may engender even further developments. Michael Hirsh at Newsweek writes: "Sorry, Barack, You’ve lost Iraq" to describe the new status of forces agreement (a long term security and basing arrangement) Bush announced recently.
In remarks to the traveling press, delivered from the Third Army operation command center here, Bush said that negotiations were about to begin on a long-term strategic partnership with the Iraqi government modeled on the accords the United States has with Kuwait and many other countries. Crocker, who flew in from Baghdad with Petraeus to meet with the president, elaborated: "We're putting our team together now, making preparations in Washington," he told reporters. "The Iraqis are doing the same. ...
Gen. Petraeus told reporters that he and Pentagon planners were also working on a new "intellectual construct" for a U.S. troop presence in Iraq beyond the planned withdrawal of five brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions and the Marine Expeditionary Unit by the end of July. ...
The upshot is that the next president, Democrat or Republican, is likely to be handed a fait accompli that could well render moot his or her own elaborate withdrawal plans, especially the ones being considered by the two leading Democratic contenders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Continued success in Iraq has the effect of increasing the size of the pot that an incoming Democratic president must throw away in order to fulfill election promises to the antiwar base. It can be compared to a promise to abandon a business venture, which was easy enough to say for as long as it seemed in the red or marginal. But once it starts turning a profit -- and an increasingly large one -- fulfilling the promise becomes more and more costly. Abandoning a success may in fact secretly delight an antiwar candidate, if the objective is to inflict as large a defeat as possible for the US, but it will come at a political price so great it may cost the election. It would be like getting caught between Iraq and a hard place.