Tim Sumner

A look at where Iraq is headed by Ralph Peters:

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters is in Iraq and writes a column for the New York Post. He offers this, this morning:

Let’s go back to a few fundamental questions, before considering what the future may hold:

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Can Iraq become the model democracy of which we dreamed? No. But it can evolve as a state that treats its citizens with reasonable fairness, hears their voices — and rejects both terror and aggression. In the context of the Middle East, that’s still a big win.

What really happens if we leave sooner, rather than later? None of us knows with certainty. Nor do the Iraqis. But they believe that sectarian violence would explode and that a largely defeated al Qaeda in Iraq would gain a new lease on life.

What happens to the region if we quit Iraq? Iran wins.

SO where are we now, at the beginning of September 2007, with Washington already prejudging and prespinning what our military commander in Iraq will report in a few weeks?

Given the strategic bravado and operational inconsistency — the battlefield fecklessness — of the Bush administration in the past, it’s essential to avoid gushing optimism. But, based upon what I saw, from the dust of Anbar Province to the streets of Baghdad, during Infantry patrols and in interviews with generals I trust, I believe that sober optimism is in order.

Here is the rest of what he wrote.

President Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq

President Bush makes surprise visit to Iraq

The Associated Press reports via Fox News:

Monday , September 03, 2007 — AL-ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — President Bush and his national security team made a first-hand assessment of the war in Iraq and prospects for political reconciliation Monday before a showdown with Congress over the U.S. troop buildup.

The president secretly flew 12 hours to this dusty air base in a remote part of Anbar province, bypassing Baghdad in a symbolic expression of impatience with political paralysis in the nation’s capital. The gesture underscored the U.S. belief that the spark for progress may come at the local level.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived ahead of Bush and conferred with senior U.S. officials, including Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, before a session with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and other top Iraqi officials from Baghdad.

To a large degree, the setting was the message: Bringing al-Maliki, a Shiite, to the heart of mostly Sunni Anbar province was intended to show the administration’s war critics that the beleaguered Iraqi leader is capable of reaching out to Sunnis, who ran the country for years under Saddam Hussein.

The temperature topped 43 Celsius degrees (110 Fahrenheit) as Bush stepped off Air Force One. The president stopped at a small building where a Marine Cobra pilot briefed him about the positives and negatives of current troop rotations. He told the president that troops were not getting enough time at home and did not have enough time for training.

“Morale?” asked Bush. “How’s morale?”

“Very high sir,” the pilot, Capt. Lee Hemming, said.

There has been a drop in violence in Anbar, where Sunni tribal leaders and former insurgents have teamed up with U.S. troops to hunt down al-Qaida and other extremists.

Anticipating criticism that Bush’s trip was a media event to buttress support for his war strategy, the White House was ready to push back.

“There are some people who might try to deride this trip as a photo opportunity,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. “We wholeheartedly disagree.” Hadley said Bush wanted to hear personally from commanders and from al-Maliki himself. “There is no substitute for sitting down, looking him in the eye, and having a conversation with him,” Hadley said. “The president felt this is something he had to do in order to put himself in a position to make some important decisions.”

Next week, Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker testify before Congress. Their assessment of the conflict, along with a progress report the White House must give lawmakers by Sept. 15, will determine the next chapter of the war… READ THE REST

View more AP photos here.