Waiting for the Democrats to drop their first shoe on Iraq
Despite all of the chatter about the various "reports" on Iraq, the real question is when the Democrats will make their first move and what that move might be. I suspect that the move they would like to make is to pass a joint resolution of congress endorsing the Iraq Study Group report recommendations in their entirely and "recommending" that the Bush administration proceed to implement all of those recommendations in their entirely.
Clearly the administration has professed a desire to cherry pick the recommendations and otherwise water down the report, but there is essentially no reason for the Democrats to turn away from the Iraq Study Group report as issued and bend in any way to waffling by the administration.
The other ongoing "studies" of Iraq should be completed within a few weeks, so that the Democrats could well be in a position to either pursue such a resolution or to at least begin holding hearings on the topic by the end of January. Worst case, we should see some "action" from the Democrats before the end of February.
Even on such an aggressive plan, it is also more likely, in my view, that the Iraqis will be far ahead of the U.S. by then and will have issued their own proclamation of intentions no later than mid-February.
In fact, although the Democrats may fully intend to endorse the Iraq Study group recommendations, rapid progress by the Iraqis may force the Democrats to pass a resolution that simply "urges" the Bush administration to "negotiate" a "treaty" with the Iraqis.
I believe that a treaty of some form is needed between the U.S. and Iraq, but nobody is yet talking about such a treaty. I think that if both sides could simply agree on a set of principles to govern the relationships between the two countries, all of the details could be resolved in a much more straightforward process. If we could simply get the discussion framed as an agreement between two sovereigns, progress would be much more rapid.
For now, the best thing the Democrats can do is simply to keep Washington tied up in knots so the Iraqis can feel that they have enough "running room" to get their own act together.