With Senate stalled, military moves into action, sort of

A slow start for the Baghdad security operation.

Published February 7, 2007 2:14PM (EST)

With Harry Reid declaring negotiations with Republicans "over," Senate Democrats seem to have given up hope of having a stand-alone debate over George W. Bush's decision to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The result? To the extent that the Senate deals with Bush's escalation plan at all, it likely will do so in the course of considering a flurry of amendments to a House bill on 9/11 Commission reforms later this month.

It may be harder, procedurally speaking, for the Republicans to block consideration of the issue then, and the proposals that could come by way of amending the 9/11 legislation -- Barack Obama's plan for a withdrawal, Russ Feingold's plan to cut off funding -- would have the teeth the nonbinding Warner-Levin resolution lacked. Of course, that also means that there's no chance those proposals will pass.

In the meantime, the military will be implementing the plan that the president has set forth, or at least as well as it can. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki complained Tuesday that the new Baghdad security plan is off to a slow start. "We have talked much about the operations, and while the Iraqis are waiting and waiting, the terrorists in turn have raised the level of the bombing operations and started killing people in mass numbers," he told his military leaders. Maliki's complaints echo those coming from Shiites, who say that the stutter-start to the plan has denied them the safety that Shiite militias offered without providing anything yet to take their place.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the Baghdad operation was supposed to have started Monday but didn't. "It's probably going to slip a few days," he said, "and it's probably going to be a rolling implementation."

Gates also confirmed what some military officials have been saying all along: Some U.S. troops don't yet have the equipment they need to carry out the duties they're being sent to perform. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that armored vehicles needed by some troops won't be available until July; he said that those troops will be waiting in their compound in Iraq until then.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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