Politically, the Iraqi government -- and politics more broadly -- is a shambles. The only indicator of political progress cited by the GAO is a measure providing protection for the rights of minorities in the legislature. There's nothing but failure on constitutional reform ("satisfactory," said the White House), oil-revenue distribution ("the current status is unsatisfactory, but it is too early to tell"), and de-Baathification (not satisfactory).
And then there's this highly significant tidbit. On Monday, President Bush gave a speech praising a recent accord among the Shiite and Kurdish political parties of Nouri al-Maliki's government -- which has no Sunnis, who, along with the Sadrists, have withdrawn from the cabinet -- pledging to play nicer with the Sunnis. (Tariq al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni political entity, signed the accord, but hasn't brought his party back into the government and the other Sunnis doubt Maliki's sincerity.) The cost-free accord for Maliki smelled a lot like an illusory political deal intended to bolster the Petraeus/Crocker assessments next month to Congress. Sure enough, the GAO finds that Bush's public statements about political progress by the Maliki government are entirely contradicted by internal studies:
An internal administration assessment this month, the GAO says, concluded that "this [Sunni] boycott ends any claim by the Shi'ite-dominated coalition to be a government of national unity." An administration official involved in Iraq policy said that he did not know what specific interagency document the GAO was citing but noted that it is an accurate reflection of the views of many officials.
Along with an independent assessment of the Iraqi security forces, led by distinguished retired Marine General Jim Jones, the GAO report will be delivered to Congress next week. Post reporters Karen DeYoung and Tom Ricks got a leaked draft, they write, from "a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq." (Petraeus reportedly "softened" last week's NIE.)
But even if the report stands as it is in the draft, it's not hard to see what the White House response to the GAO will be. Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, questioned the report's methodology: "it's not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow." In other words, it's problematic for the GAO to give an yea-or-nay assessment of conditions in Iraq. This from a president who famously said he doesn't "do nuance."