1. Troop levels to remain more or less steady in Iraq through December: This has more to do with the Iraqi elections in October than it does with the American election in November, and Abu Muqawama understands the reasoning. But honestly, if the elections don't happen or if all hell breaks loose and the elections don't allow the Sunni some way back into the political process, we have to admit the surge was a brilliant tactical victory but of less value strategically. Michelle Flournoy: “The only happy ending to the surge is for it to produce some strategic results, which it has yet to do.” And by that time, it's a new president's problem. Thanks, George!
2. Abu Muqawama still can't get over all that crap about Iran which leaked into AEI's plan for Iraq. There was a lot of stuff in the AEI report that was really good and suggested serious thought and analysis, but that stuff on Iran is what happens when you let a bunch of Iran hawks with their own agenda (we would never name names) into the planning process. The result is a report containing some very good recommendations tainted by the ideological crusades of some beltway warriors. (Also, the failure to mention the needs of and situation in Afghanistan as part of the recommendations was, again, especially galling.)
3. A reader we'll identify as John N. for the sake of anonymity sent along this op-ed by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal on the debate among Sunni clerics about the requirements for jihad and the constraints they put upon al-Qaeda recruiting. It's an interesting read (albeit with a title that's a little too hopeful). Readers wanting to know more about how the requirements for jihad play out in the minds of wannabe jihadis -- you must ask your Mom and Dad for permission, you must pay off debts, etc. -- would do well to read Andrea Elliott's excellent report from Tetouan for the New York Times Magazine a few months back.
Update: Lady S. suggested that Abu Muqawama do some sort of comparison between al-Qaeda recruitment and recruitment for, say, the US Marine Corps. Abu Muqawama had actually thought about throwing in some snarky line into the original post about how the requirements for jihad were stricter than the requirements for joining the Marines or U.S. Army. After all, as any officer and NCO who supervises troops knows, you can enlist in the Marines or Army with plenty of debt and you don't need your parents' permission. (Unless you're under 18.) So by one measure, it's easier to go fight in Iraq as a Marine than it is as a suicide bomber.
Update II: Holy %$#@, it's baseball season already.