Sometime later this week, a report on the progress the Iraqi government has made will be delivered to the Senate. But there's no suspense left, if there ever was any -- the Associated Press reported Monday night that the report "will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform."
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow downplayed the significance of the report, saying the administration's surge plan had not yet had a chance to work, adding, "You are not going to expect all the benchmarks to be met at the beginning of something. ... I'm not sure everyone's going to get an 'A' on the first report."
The speculation in many quarters is that the report will force the Bush administration's hand and make them consider options for what happens after the surge -- as well as possible timetables to begin withdrawing U.S. troops -- before they had planned to do so. The president will be speaking in Cleveland this afternoon; the Washington Post reports that he will use the opportunity to begin selling what an aide called "his vision for the post-surge."
The Post says that Bush will begin "emphasizing his intent to draw down U.S. forces next year and move toward a more limited mission if security conditions improve" and that "The White House devised the political strategy after days of intense internal discussions about how to respond to several prominent Republican senators who have broken with Bush's war policy recently. Bush decided against heeding their proposal to begin redeploying U.S. troops as early as this summer, but he and his team concluded that he needed to shift his message to show that he shares the goals of his increasingly restless Republican caucus and the broader public."
Elsewhere, the New York Times has an interview with Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who warns of dire consequences if the U.S. pulls out. "You can't build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you've really got to account for it," Crocker said. "... In the States, it's like we're in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we're done here, and the credits come up, and the lights come on, and we leave the theater and go on to something else. Whereas out here, you're just getting into the first reel of five reels, and as ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse."
Also, we feel that someone needs to call attention to this: Posting at the Corner, the blog of the conservative National Review, radio host Mark Levin added his own distinct take to the AP story on the forthcoming report.
"So, the Iraqi government reportedly hasn't met any of its targets," Levin wrote, then asked, "Has the Democrat (sic) Congress met any of its targets?"