“A BROAD, CONDITIONS-BASED TIMETABLE”….The fine folks at Newsweek have gotten hold of a draft copy of the national reconciliation plan soon to be announced by Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Among other things, it will ask for a firm U.S. withdrawal plan to be enforced by a United Nations resolution:

The plan also calls for a withdrawal timetable for coalition forces from Iraq, but it doesn’t specify an actual date ? one of the Sunnis’ key demands. It calls for “the necessity of agreeing on a timetable under conditions that take into account the formation of Iraqi armed forces so as to guarantee Iraq’s security,” and asks that a U.N. Security Council decree confirm the timetable. Mahmoud Othman, a National Assembly member who is close to President Talabani, said that no one disagrees with the concept of a broad, conditions-based timetable.

….[A] senior coalition military official, who agreed to discuss this subject with Newsweek and The Times of London on the condition of anonymity, notably did not outright rule out the idea of a date. “One of the advantages of a timetable ? all of a sudden there is a date which is a much more explicit thing than an abstract condition,” he said. “That’s the sort of assurance that [the Sunnis] are looking for.”

“Does that mean the subject of a date is up for negotiation?” he was asked. “I think that if men of goodwill sit down together and exchange ideas, which might be defined either by a timetable or by … sets of conditions, there must be a capacity to find common ground,” the official said.

Did you get that? No one disagrees with the concept of a broad, conditions-based timetable.

President Bush would be flatly insane to turn this opportunity down. It’s precisely the kind of request he needs in order to declare victory, assure everyone that the job is close to done, and make it clear that he respects Iraqi sovereignty and doesn’t plan to occupy their country forever. There would be no loss of face and no loss of national honor.

Conversely, if he resists it, it would be hard not to conclude that he was doing so solely because a “broad, conditions-based timetable” also happens to be exactly the position of the vast majority of the Democratic Party ? and he would rather chew off his own big toe than do anything that might turn down the volume on the domestic partisan jihad that’s been so politically successful for Republicans ever since 9/11. I guess we’ll find out soon.

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