End game in Iraq?

Always bad, things seem even more dicey in Iraq these days, signalling that the war in that country is likely to roil the November vote here. Over the weekend, the government of Iraq announced a 36-hour curfew on both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the first time in more than three years they've done that — effectively shutting the city of 7 million down. It happened amid rumors that a bodyguard for a top Sunni Iraqi leader was arrested for plotting a suicide bomb attack on the so-called Green Zone, the very heart of Iraqi power and the headquarters of the U.S. occupation. According to one Iraqi official, the curfew was imposed because of a plan for a coup d'etat against the government of Prime Minister Maliki, who was elected to lead the U.S.-installed regime. There've been periodic reports of a planned coup all year. Many U.S. officials, too, are publicly warning Maliki that he has only a short time to fix things. Everyone from top U.S. military officials to Ambassador Khalilzad to Lee Hamilton, who heads the Iraq Study Group, are saying the same thing: that Maliki has only a couple of months to act. "There's going to come a time when I would argue that we are going to have to force the issue," a U.S. military official told the Washington Post last Thursday. It seems that both U.S. occupation authorities and various Iraqi factions are ready to give up on Maliki.