I have a fair amount of faith in Khalilzad, so he'll get the benefit of the doubt on this one. But near as I can tell, the U.S. just blew it. We'll see how the negotiations go. I fear they'll breakdown for lack of specifics and real meat.
U.S. pressure seems to have been reinforced by Senators on both sides:
"No, I don't think granting amnesty to people who killed Americans is acceptable, and I don't believe that's what the Iraqi government intends to do," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, on ABC Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan said the idea that Iraq should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have harmed those responsible for their freedom "unconscionable."
"For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator," said Levin on "Fox News Sunday." "We've paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives."
In fairness to the Senate, some were actually thoughtful:
Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he thinks the plan is a "very positive step forward" by the fledgling government.
"He has drafted a plan ... to get the grass-roots response in an effort to have a healing effect and put behind us the differences in Iraq and bring to the forefront a consensus and hopefully the council -- which is their congress -- will work on it," said Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"We will, our government, be in consultation -- not dictating, but in consultation -- on the points, as well as [being] the one questioning how you treat those who fought in various ways against the forces that we had when they came in, and today [are] fighting the insurgency."
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska also said the plan is in the blueprint phase and for now there should be some flexibility.
"After all, they are a sovereign government now, and that's what we helped produce for them, and that's what we said we believe in. ... So they're going to have to make some tough choices, and we'll help them as much as we can," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Now, I certainly prefer our cause to that of the Sunni insurgents. But the American Army and the Iraqi army are legitimate targets for insurgency. Even IEDs, essentially manually operated land minds, can be a perfectly legitimate weapon. Now some insurgents certainly crossed the line into becoming terrorists/war criminals. I think Warner's reference to 'in various ways' is probably getting to that point. So offers of amnesty, as part of a settlement package, are perfectly standard when trying to end a war.
I don't doubt that U.S. forces are still achieving a range of tactical successes. And while reconstruction funds are cut, there's still some good signs even today. The NY Times reports that "Enrollment in Iraqi schools has risen every year since the American invasion, according to Iraqi government figures, reversing more than a decade of declines and offering evidence of increased prosperity for some Iraqis."
So, we'll see whether Maliki is able to follow through with the vague reconciliation plan. I'll be substantially more pessemistic about the utility of our continued presence if it fails.