POLITICAL PROGRESS IN IRAQ….Marc Lynch reports that the latest withdrawal of the Sunni al-Tawafuq bloc from the Maliki government in Iraq is probably for real this time. After explaining what this means on a practical level (namely that the political process isn’t merely stalled, but actively deteriorating), he concludes:

Nobody who follows Iraq really needs the recitation of failed political benchmarks, I suppose, but it’s worth stating it bluntly: The Bush administration argued that its new strategy should be judged by the political process, not at the military level, and by its own standards it has clearly failed. Switching the focus back to tactical military developments may allow administration defenders to put forward signs of ‘progress’ — however ephemeral, dubious, or beside the point — but serious people shouldn’t join in this shell game. The administration and its supporters sold the surge on the premise that it would pay its dividends at the level of national Iraqi politics. It hasn’t. The Sunnis have left the government, none of the political benchmarks have been met, and they won’t be since the Parliament has adjourned until September. No honest report from Ambassador Crocker — who is an honest man and a very good diplomat — will be able to portray any progress, or prospects for progress, on the national political front.

But will Crocker be willing to deliver an honest report? And if he is, will the Bush administration let him? We’ll see.

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