[VP Cheney arrives in Iraq this morning]
Wow. Not only did McCain, Lieberman and Graham make the trip to set Petraeus straight, but now we see that Shooter made the trip himself to ensure that the 100 year occupation of Iraq comes to fruition without damaging neoconservative interests:
Vice President Cheney made an unannounced visit to Baghdad this morning, just two days before the five-year anniversary of the start of the war, to push Iraqi leaders to do more to resolve the political disputes still driving the conflict.
In his first trip to Iraq since the deployment of additional U.S. forces last summer began to turn the security situation around, Cheney arrived aboard a C-17 military transport about 12:45 a.m. Monday Washington time and headed immediately to a series of meetings with U.S. commanders and Iraqi leaders.
A senior official traveling with Cheney told reporters aboard his plane that the vice president was going to meet with Iraqi leaders to "thank them for the hard work they've done" and urge them to move ahead with "the rest of the hard work necessary to consolidate Iraq's democracy," according to a pool report filed once they arrived in Baghdad. Cheney also will discuss a long-term security agreement intended to outlive the Bush presidency, the official said.
No, he went there to chew out Petraeus for wandering off script. Nothing like a panicked visit by half the damned neocons still serving in government to drive that point home. They've worked hard to pretend that the surge worked and they've gotten themselves a respite from the media attention. They've lulled the general populace into thinking the war is contained and shrinking. Anything that puts Iraq back on the front pages terrifies them. Because it blows any chance McCain has of only losing by four points in the fall. If McCain loses in a landslide, the neocons will be blown out of Washington.
Look, it's clear to anyone with a brain--Petraeus is now going to be a "realist" when it comes to Iraq and he's not going to repeat whatever he's told to repeat. He sees January 20, 2009 as his retirement date if he doesn't abandon the neocons and start to be more independent in his public statements and deeds.
It's that simple. He has to abandon the losers if he wants to move up.
Juan Cole has more details:
Gen. Petraeus isn't specific, but I can give some examples. The Sunni Arab Iraqi Accord Front withdrew from the al-Maliki 'national unity' government last summer. The IAF is a coalition of three parties. Two of them say they are uninterested in coming back into the government. The third, the Iraqi Islamic Party, led by vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, is said to be seriously considering returning. Nothing has happened so far. In other words, it is still the case that al-Maliki's government is less successful at reconciliation with the Sunnis now than it had been last year this time before the surge had made much of an impact.
Sunni Arab provinces such as Diyala, Salahuddin and Mosul are still violent, and even al-Anbar, which has settled down, is not paradise. The Awakening Council model does not seem to have been successful outside al-Anbar and some Baghdad neighborhoods, and there is always the danger that the US is creating a powerful Sunni militia that despises Prime Minister al-Maliki as Iran's cat's paw.
The Kurdish-Arab struggles in the north, the issue of Kirkuk, the terror activities of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)-- based in Iraq but hitting NATO Turkish troops in eastern Turkey-- and the Turkish incursions into and bombings of Iraqi Kurdistan, signal that the north is a powder keg. The unresolved issue of oil-rich Kirkuk and whether it will accede to the Kurdistan Regional Government is the other shoe in the Iraq crisis, which has not yet dropped but could at any moment. I have been told that Gen. Petraeus deeply disagreed with Bush's decision to share real time intelligence on the PKK with the Turkish government and to allow a major Turkish incursion into and bombing of northern Iraq.
Likewise, the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) withdrew from the al-Maliki government last year. It controls the provincial administration of Basra. Its rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, staged a 5000-strong demonstration against the provincial government last week. Having bad relations between the federal center and the province of Basra is not good for Iraq, because Basra is the country's biggest export route, including for petroleum, which generates 90% of government revenues.
So you could understand how Gen. Petraeus, having sacrificed so much to get some sort of social peace in Baghdad that would allow some major steps toward political reconciliation, is frustrated that no such major initiatives have been launched and that Iraqi politics just seems to be stuck.
It is worthwhile mentioning that what Gen. Petraeus said about the lack of political progress is the opposite of what John McCain has been saying. I am not saying that the contradiction is intended to be a political statement. But I am saying that Petraeus has just revealed himself again to be a straight shooter of a sort that has been all too rare in the Iraq misadventure.