This much I can confirm: there is growing pessimism among U.S. officials about the possibility of the long-sought political deal amongst Shi'ites and Sunnis and Kurds. The current feeling is that there's no way to get the Shi'ites to relinquish any significant power. So there may be an American desire to shake things up.That's right. The Shiites will will never give up any substantial power to the Sunnis. Why should they? And as long as that's the case, the Sunni insurgency will never give up either.
On the other hand I just love it when I have to start a paragraph so forcefully there's also the sense that Maliki is the most plausible alternative amongst the various Shi'ite factions. The vain hope, now six months old, that a broader coalition might be built to run Iraq amongst Kurds, acceptable Sunnis, secular Shi'ites and assorted cats and dogs is now officially dead.
In the end, whether we stay or not, the Shiites will come to some kind of understanding with the Kurds, who will retain their quasi-independence in the north. The rest of the country will become a Shia theocracy. That can happen slowly, with us caught in the middle, or it can happen quickly after an American withdrawal. But it will happen either way, and there's nothing we can do to stop the bloodshed. There is no magic bullet.
Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to provide some plausible scenario in which we have at least a small chance of influencing this underlying political dynamic. I haven't heard one yet, and the surge is one of the most pathetic of the lot, little more than a desperate attempt to run out the clock so that George Bush can claim that he wasn't the one who lost Iraq. That might help him sleep better once he's out of office, but it won't change the reality or the history books. It's time to leave.