IRAQI POLITICS UPDATE….If you have a good memory you might remember a post I wrote last month about the slow emergence of an anti-Maliki bloc in Iraq that includes various elements led by Ayad Allawi, the Sunni politician Saleh Al-Mutlaq, and Muqtada al-Sadr, among others. At the time, Cernig suggested that “discreet support” for this alliance might be “the only Plan B there is” in Iraq if the surge fails.

Today in the American Prospect, Robert Dreyfuss updates us on this emerging alliance and suggests that it represents the best path forward to an American withdrawal:

Earlier this year, Fadhila — a Sadrist movement strong in Basra and Iraq’s south — pulled out of Maliki’s ruling United Iraqi Alliance. Since then, both Fadhila and Sadr’s own party have been discussing a new political alignment with the Sunnis called a “National Salvation Front.”….Among Sadr’s potential allies are Mutlaq’s bloc, the larger Iraqi Accord Front (which includes Sunni religious parties, such as the Iraqi Islamic Party), and Allawi’s secular Iraqi National List. Allawi, a secular Shia, has been actively seeking a leadership role in a coalition to replace Maliki, too.

….In the end, if and when the United States reconciles itself to a withdrawal from Iraq, the path to stability will be found in a nationalist government constituting most or all of the emerging “national salvation” coalition. It’s possible that the team of so-called realists now in control of U.S. foreign policy can come to that understanding on their own. Or perhaps they’ll need to be pushed, and hard, by the Democrats in Congress and on the ’08 presidential campaign trail.

But with each passing day, as sectarian violence grows, it will be more and more difficult to make that happen. Americans need to begin understanding that the end of the Maliki government and the start of a U.S. withdrawal are one and the same thing.

Now, Maliki’s coalition is genuinely influential, and its members won’t fade quietly away if a rival coalition manages to take power. Stability is far from guaranteed even if the National Salvation Front successfully wrests control away from Maliki.

It’s also unclear just what the United States can do to encourage the NSF in any case, especially since its credibility with the Iraqi public rests largely on the very fact that they’re fundamentally anti-American. Any overt help we gave them would likely backfire, which means our assistance would need to be very discreet indeed.

Still, the Maliki government has pretty clearly failed and the NSF is the most credible opposition there is. It also seems like the best bet to hold things together enough to allow an American withdrawal. So, discreetly, subtly, quietly, whatever, Dreyfuss is probably right: helping the NSF build a coalition that can topple the Maliki government is most likely our best bet for disentangling ourselves from Iraq. Stay tuned.