On 7 September, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) predicted that "[w]ithin the next weeks, not months, there will be a major breakthrough on the benchmarks regarding political reconciliation" in Iraq. This encouraging pronouncement was made at a friendly gathering at the American Enterprise Institute.
Days later while questioning General Petraeus, Senator Graham laid out sobering reality in American blood and treasure the stay the course strategy would cost.
So you're saying to the Congress that you know that at least 60 soldiers, airmen and Marines are likely to be killed every month from now to July, that we're going to spend $9 billion a month of American taxpayer dollars, and when it's all said and done, we'll still have 100,000 people there.
In the wake of the Petraeus testimony earlier this month, Senator Graham backtracked from "weeks, not months" to multiple months declaring that if the Iraqis "can't do it in 90 days ... it means the major players don't want to."
Since Senator Graham's first prediction of imminent progress on 7 September, few steps forward have been taken while setbacks have filled the narrative. The Iraq oil law, a major benchmark in the reconciliation process, appears to be collapsing. A high-profile Sunni tribal leader central to the "Anbar Awakening" strategy was assassinated just ten days after meeting with President Bush in Anbar province. A pentagon report highlights a "notable turn for the worse" in Southern Iraq. The deteriorating conditions may force the British troops to return to the strategic southern city of Basra. The goal to hand over security in all 18 provinces to Iraqis (originally set for this November but in June was pushed back to next March) has been postponed again until next July. A recent Shiite-Sunni reconciliation meeting of top leaders was interrupted by suicide bomber leaving at least 25 dead and 40 wounded. In a recent meeting between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki, benchmark legislation like the new oil law and tempered de-Ba’athification measures were replaced with questions of Iraqi sovereignty relating to the actions of private military contractor Blackwater USA and the "illegal" detention of an Iranian national in Northern Iraq.
While what Lindsey Grahams crystal ball predicted in terms of political reconciliation was erroneous, he was right about two things: there have been 59 US military fatalities so far this month and the latest budget requests for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the largest since the 'war on terror' began six years ago.
Posted by Geoff
Labels: foreign affairs, foreign policy, Lindsey Graham, politics, reconciliation, Republican, surge