Looking For Light In Iraq
Behind all the violence, some signs of progress
Waving a wand? The ambassador acknowledges that "real pressure is also needed" to back up such bargaining. He reiterated Iraq's view that Iran and other neighbors must be brought to the diplomatic table. "There is a great sense of urgency," Sumadaie says, while admitting the government has limited room to maneuver. "The prime minister cannot wave a wand and make the militias disappear."
There is great skepticism among U.S. officials over whether Maliki is ready to rein in the Shiite militias anytime soon. But it is a marker the prime minister has himself laid out, and one that might be the basis for an alternative U.S. approach. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and President Bush's former head of policy planning at the State Department, suggests "giving the Iraqi government an ultimatum to achieve agreement on core issues. The U.S. would inform the Iraqi government-ideally, following close consultations-that U.S. troops will be removed from the country's center unless the Iraqis show they are willing and able to meet certain standards by a specified date. Such standards would be military, i.e., achieve a certain level of proficiency, and political, i.e., gain broad agreement on new power- and revenue-sharing arrangements." Then, he says, "if the Iraqis fail to meet the tests, a substantial share of the onus for the withdrawal would ostensibly be on the Iraqis for their shortcomings, rather than on the U.S. stemming from a lack of resolve."