It may be morning in America -- literally speaking, at least -- but it's almost Monday evening in Baghdad. That means the extended deadline for Iraq's constitution is just hours away, and negotiators meeting inside the fortified Green Zone still seem to be a long way away from reaching a final agreement.
According to the Associated Press, Iraq's political leaders made either "some progress" or a "major breakthrough" in their talks Monday morning, apparently on the issue of sharing Iraq's oil revenue. But the issues that apparently still must be resolved before a draft can be submitted to the National Assembly all sound pretty familiar: women's rights, the role of Islam and the power reserved to the individual provinces vs. the power granted to the central government.
While some negotiators expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached by the end of the day, not all of them were so optimistic. The AP quotes Abdul-Khaleq Zangana, a Kurd on the negotiation team, as saying that problems with "the role of religion and women's rights" would likely prevent completion of the constitution by Monday's extended deadline, predicting "either an extension -- and this is not good -- or parliament dissolves -- and this is difficult."
Administration officials have said that the week's delay the Iraqis granted themselves last week won't be catastrophic so long as the constitution is finished promptly. But if another deadline comes and goes today, it will be harder for the likes of Condoleezza Rice to talk of "progress" in the delay. And even if the National Assembly approves a constitution tonight, there's still the small matter of getting it approved by the country at large -- not to mention the need to defeat the insurgency in the meantime.
At least four more U.S. troops died in Iraq over the weekend, bringing the U.S. death toll to 1,866. Even some members of the president's own party are sounding like they have had enough. Saying that Iraq is looking more like Vietnam every day, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel openly mocked Dick Cheney last week for suggesting that we're seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency. "Maybe the vice president can explain the increase in casualties we're taking," Hagel, who served in Vietnam, told CNN. "If that's winning, then he's got a different definition of winning than I do."
From the Democrats, the message on Iraq remains a little less crisp. As Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray write in today's Washington Post, the public's unease about the war should create opportunities for Democrats, but the opposition party is having a hard time figuring out how to respond. For every Paul Hackett or Russ Feingold -- who has become the first senator to propose a complete U.S. troop withdrawal by a specific deadline -- there are a dozen Washington Democrats who worry about sounding too "defeatist" about something that isn't looking like much of a "victory" just yet.