But until two things happen, friction will remain the status quo in Baghdad, according to U.S. officials. "The Sunnis need to realize they've lost," says one senior military officer. "And the Shia need to realize they have won." The former is beginning to happen, as Sunnis come to the table in increasing numbers. The latter may take far more time.
How this all affects the political calculus on the ground in Iraq will be measured against the political calculus in Washington as well. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is credited with easing some of the administration's Iraq tensions with Capitol Hill by being a consensus builder and a pragmatist. "We're not trying to scare anyone or play politics," Gates said in recent congressional testimony. "That's not the way I do business." This tack has taken some pressure off the Bush administration—but not all. Ultimately, officials in Baghdad know, their options in Iraq will be dictated by progress on the ground.
With Kevin Whitelaw