WASHINGTON -- The White House is preparing for an important week: President Bush plans to meet Monday with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, and the recommendations from the bipartisan commission are to be released Wednesday.al-Hakim is the leader of the largest faction in the Iraqi parliament, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and as such, likely fronts for al-Sadr and other Shi'a partisans, such as Ayatollah Sistani. In fact, I'd lay money that it was al-Sistani who encouraged this meeting.
To put it in perspective, it's a little like Nancy Pelosi going to Beijing to meet with President Hu Jintao about settling the red/blue states dispute. Meanwhile, this all goes on in front of the backdrop of Bush's meeting with Prime Minister "heckuva job there, Nouri" al-Maliki last week, and his stubborn insistence that there will be no change in course.
Of course there will. There's only the question of how long Maliki will fight to remain in office, and how much political cover the Baker report, due Wednesday, will give the administration to make changes. The fact that Bush is meeting with Hakim, who had a public disagreement with Maliki a few weeks ago over the progress being made, and all but removed the pins from under Maliki, who had relied on his appeasement of Sadr and Sistani as a technique for remaining in power, on the heels of the leaked Hadley memo, speaks a lot to the direction this is heading in.
Oh....the Hadley memo, in case you missed it this weekend:
The latest, first reported in Sunday's New York Times, showed that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for a "major adjustment" in U.S. tactics on Nov. 6 -- the day before an election that cost Republicans the Congress and Rumsfeld his job as defense secretary.Uh, yea. Rumsfeld, the day before the election, suddenly decides to give the President a laundry list of changes to be made...no, there was no machination there!
Hadley played down the memo as a laundry list of ideas rather than a call for a new course of action.
He said that Bush -- just before a pivotal election -- was not portraying a different sense of the war to the public than his own defense secretary was giving him in private.
So my expectation is, that the Baker study will be released, Bush will at first ignore the memo, maybe even poopoo it, but eventually will quietly implement most of its recommendations, finishing with a troop redeployment in late 2007. Remember, this is a President who, on the campaign trail promised to never ever get into "nation building," yet had plans all along to do just that in Iraq.