It’s all but official. James Baker’s “Iraq Study Group” is going to undermine Bush’s strategy…

While it weighs alternatives, the 10-member commission headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III has agreed on one principle.

“It’s not going to be ‘stay the course,’ ” one participant said. “The bottom line is, [current U.S. policy] isn’t working…. There’s got to be another way.”

If the panel recommends overhauling Bush’s approach to Iraq, it could give a boost not only to critics of current policy but also to officials in the administration who have argued for broad changes.

“There’ll probably be some things in our report that the administration might not like,” Baker said in a television interview last week.

..and frankly, I’m of the opinion these days that maybe a phased withdrawal isn’t the worst option anymore

BAGHDAD, Oct. 15 — Militias allied with Iraq’s Shiite-led government roamed roads north of Baghdad, seeking out and attacking Sunni Arab targets Sunday, police and hospital officials said. The violence raised to at least 80 the number of people killed in retaliatory strikes between a Shiite city and a Sunni town separated only by the Tigris River.

The wave of killings around the Shiite city of Balad was the bloodiest in a surge of violence that has claimed at least 110 lives in Iraq since Saturday. The victims included 12 people who were killed in coordinated suicide bombings in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk.

“This has pushed us to the point that we must stop this sectarian government,” Ali Hussein al-Jubouri, a Sunni farmer in Duluiyah, said as he searched for the body of a nephew reportedly killed in the violence around Balad.

Stop the government? That sounds like fighting words to me.

Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

If we don’t do something soon, Iraq will be lost to us. Either we pour more troops in there or we start a phased pullout and force Iraq to fend for itself. Since the former tactic looks increasingly less likely to happen because of political pressures at home, I’m guessing it’s going to be the latter. That’s a sad reality, and one I hate to accept, but I can’t help but think this is really the only way Iraq is going to ultimately fix itself.

Ugh…what a mess.

Politics “Stay The Course” Is Dead