Is There a Way Out of Iraq?

Nov. 29, 2006 — -- Is there a way out? Will Iraq be in a better situation next week, next month or next year? Can an emergency summit in Jordan make a difference?

Charles Gibson reports from Amman, Jordan beginning tonight on "World News" at 6:30 p.m ET.

All eyes are on Amman as President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki looking for solutions to the political and military morass in Iraq.

Prospects for the already-delayed meeting were put into further doubt when al-Maliki canceled a presummit dinner with Bush. But White House Spokesperson Dan Bartlett denied there was a snub, saying it was nothing more then a schedule change.

Even before the meetings began, ABC News had learned the Pentagon was considering essentially writing off Iraq's deadliest province for American forces, pulling U.S. troops out of Anbar, and moving them to fight what may be an even more difficult battle: the fight for Baghdad.

Professor Noah Feldman from New York University helped write the Iraqi constitution.

He said, "As Baghdad goes, so goes the nation."

But the fact that the Pentagon is considering abandoning Anbar shows the "ineffectiveness of the strategy and troop commitment to this point," Feldman said. "We have spent so much blood there."

Feldman said, "In a perfect world, I would not walk away from Anbar. But Iraq is far from a perfect world."

From the beginning of the war, Anbar province has been the heart of the Sunni insurgency, and more recently al Qaeda's main base of operations in Iraq.

But it is a place of increasing frustration to the 30,000 U.S. troops there, most of them Marines.

A recent assessment by the top Marine intelligence officer in Anbar concluded that without a massive increase in U.S. forces, the insurgency in Anbar could not be defeated militarily, a bleak assessment shared by top military commanders.

Under the plan now being considered by Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, U.S. forces would turn Anbar province over to Iraqi forces.

A senior military official told ABC News, "If we are are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out there, what's the point of having them out there?"

The U.S. general in charge of the region, John Abizaid, told Congress: "Al-Anbar province is critical, but, more critical than al-Anbar province is Baghdad. Baghdad's the main military effort."

Senior Pentagon officials say they are moving three battalions (about 2,000 troops) into Baghdad from other more peaceful areas in the country.

These troops will come from the north, in the Kirkuk area.

The movement of forces will happen "soon," and in fact may have already started.

This is the first in what may be several steps to reposition forces to concentrate on the battle to secure Baghdad, and is in addition to whatever plans the Pentagon has for Anbar.

The major fear in having U.S. forces leave Anbar is that insurgents could use the area to organize and stage attacks, creating a quasi-state, much like they did in the region prior to the American siege of Fallujah in 2004.

But the Pentagon might be willing to risk a political and military vacuum there in an effort to stabilize Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi prime minister is facing political pressure from home.

The party led by the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr says it is temporarily suspending participation in the cabinet and the Iraqi National Assembly.

It is seen as a temporary protest against the Maliki/Bush summit.

But a spokesman for al Sadr told the Reuters News Service that the bloc also had made the move to oppose the extension of the U.N. mandate allowing U.S.-led forces to stay in Iraq to the end of 2007.

The U.N. Security Council approved the extension on Tuesday at the request of the Iraqi government.

"This was done without the Iraqi parliament's approval," said Al Sadr's spokesman Faleh Shanshal said, adding that Maliki had promised a debate in parliament on the extension.

"We will not return to parliament and the government unless the government responds to our request. … Although we are suspending our membership, we will go to parliament to raise this issue [the U.N. mandate]. It is a violation of the law."

But Feldman sees the al Sadr statement as a message: "The root to a solution in Iraq must go through Sadr."

Al Sadr is telling Maliki that "without him, he doesn't have a government."

Bush is facing political pressures of his own: a rebuke by the voters and even sniping from his own party over whether the country is now in a civil war.

"I would call it a civil war," former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a business forum in the United Arab Emirates. "I have been using it [civil war] because I like to face the reality,"

The stakes could not be higher for Bush and Maliki.

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