Via Kevin Drum comes a McClatchy piece on the precarious Surge:
After months of declining violence, February is certain to be the third straight month to see increases in the numbers of Baghdad residents killed in car bombings and suicide attacks.On the bright side, however, Iraq's parliament passed three crucial bills after a stormy session which say a walk-out by MPs and a frustrated Speaker threaten to disband parliament entirely.
According to statistics kept by McClatchy, the low point in such killings came in November, when 76 people died. Thanks to a pair of pet market bombings that killed 99 people Feb. 1, February's tally already is 131.
Petraeus' counsel on troop withdrawals after some surge troops have departed will play a big role in determining what Gates recommends to the president, Pentagon officials said.
Monday marked the second day in a row of suicide attacks. Blasts in Salah ad Din, Anbar and Ninevah provinces killed at least 30 people Sunday.
Monday, a suicide car bomber drove his car into the Baghdad residence of a prominent leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, a U.S.-allied militia that's credited with helping to drive al Qaida in Iraq from that province. Five minutes later, another car bomb exploded at a busy intersection a short distance away.
The blasts killed at least 11 people and injured 30.
Later, Sheik Ali Hathem al Suleiman al Duleimy, who was injured in the attack, went on Iraqi TV and declared war against his enemies. He said that his militia, many of whose members are paid by the United States, no longer would allow the U.S. or Iraqi government to interfere with its work.
His comments came as similar U.S.-allied groups in nearby Diyala province continued to refuse to work with American or Iraqi government forces until the provincial police chief is removed. On Monday, hundreds protested in Diyala to demand the chief's removal.
Iraqi lawmakers overcame weeks of deadlock today to pass three key measures: a $48-billion national budget, an amnesty law and legislation paving the way for provincial elections by Oct. 1.Even so, the bills were only passed after some procedural legerdemain from the Speaker which some MPs complained was illegal.
U.S. officials have been pressing Iraq's main ethnic and religious factions to approve these and other power-sharing measures, without which they fear recent security gains could be lost.
"These are difficult issues. They required a lot of effort, a lot of compromise, but they are important steps forward," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said at a news briefing after the measures were passed with a single vote. "A lot of challenges face Iraq and will continue to face us all in support of Iraq. But the work of the council of representatives today deserves congratulations from all of us."
The bills must be approved by Iraq's three-member presidential council, which includes the country's president and two vice presidents, before they become law.
Rumbles of revolt from the Awakening, rising violence again, a government still deeply divided and often too deadlocked to accomplish anything - no wonder Gates paused troop withdrawals. But what this all means is that the Surge is turning into the Permanent Increase while it's effects seem to be tranistory. What to do? Maybe another Surge to save the Surge? And rinse then repeat.
Meanwhile, Mookie al Sadr is carving himself a nice little position as the next BFF of the US occupation. His negotiators secured the release today of a CBS interpreter probably kidnapped by one of his breakaway militia factions in the first place - showing he can control even these rebels in his organisation. No wonder Time's Brian Bennett and Michael O'Hanlon both say the Bush administration are underestimating Sadr. For once, I agree with O'Hanlon - and I also think Sadr is going to eventually be the long-awaited Shiite strongman in charge of most of Iraq. Which means eventually Iraq and the US are on a collision course.