President Barack Obama speaks to troops as Vice President Joe Biden, left, listens at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
President Barack Obama's Democratic base and a majority of Democrats in Congress are poised to revolt if the White House fails to order a sharp drawdown in the number of troops in Afghanistan this month.
Over dinner in a quiet corner of a restaurant in Washington, D.C., a few months ago, a leading Iraqi activist and politician laid out a hopeful plan that, in his view, is the only viable political solution to Iraq's civil war: a new coalition to replace the failed, sectarian regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a nationalist, Sunni-Shia alliance. The Iraqi, on a brief Washington visit, is deeply involved in efforts to create a broad-based alliance within Iraqi politics that could oust Maliki. "We have a detailed plan," he said.
Back in 2004, President Bush went on NBC's Meet the Press to assure Americans that Iraq was not going to turn into an Islamist theocracy under the emerging Shia leadership.
"They're not going to develop that," said Bush, noting that he'd just met Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "I remember speaking to Mr. al-Hakim. I said, 'You know, I'm a Methodist. What are my chances of success in your country and your vision?' And he said, 'It's going to be a free society where you can worship freely.'"
James A. Baker III, the Bush family's favorite fixer, held forth at a Washington, D.C., news conference on Tuesday, ostensibly to present a mid-course report on the work of his little-known Iraq Study Group. In fact, he did no such thing, keeping his cards close to his chest and saying next to nothing about the work of the task force thus far. Still, if anyone can get close enough to President Bush to explain the importance of changing course in Iraq -- that is, if anyone can get past Dick Cheney, the administration's Cerberus, with that message -- it would be Jim Baker.
At the very heart of U.S. Middle East policy, from the war in Iraq to pressure for regime change in Iran and Syria to the spread of free-market democracy in the region, sits the 39-year-old daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney, appointed to her post in February 2005, has a tongue-twisting title: principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and coordinator for broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives. By all accounts, it is an enormously powerful post, and one for which she is uniquely unqualified.