In a report to be released Sunday, a panel of experts assembled by the U.S. Institute of Peace calls for a 50 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq within three years and a total withdrawal and handover of security to the Iraqi military in five years. . . .

With some recent security improvements, the biggest problem facing the Bush administration and Iraq is the failure of politicians in Baghdad to reconcile Sunni and Shiite factions and pass critical laws to secure the fledgling new democracy. “The situation remains fluid, but a window has opened, fleetingly, for Iraq to proceed with political reconciliation. Iraq’s national politicians have been unable to take full advantage of this opportunity,” says the report, authored by USIP vice president Daniel Serwer.

That seems like a realistic timetable, and — coming from the Institute of Peace — it can hardly be called a warmongering one. And it recognizes that these things take time. Indeed, things may go faster, though this piece from the New York Times takes a less positive view.

UPDATE: McCain is still on the warpath: “McCain Warns Against Iraq Pullout.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, from Sunday’s Washington Post. Excerpt:

In Baghdad, Crocker and O’Sullivan pressed Maliki to reach consensus with four other Iraqi leaders representing Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. In late August, the five announced agreement on a path forward on stalled legislation such as de-Baathification. A week later, Bush made a surprise visit to Anbar where he met with Maliki and the others to congratulate them, then met with the sheiks to highlight the success of the U.S.-tribal coalition.

The trip energized Bush and his team. Even Gates said he was more optimistic than he has been since taking office. While the secretary had been “cagey” in the past, a senior defense official said, “he’s come to the conclusion that what Petraeus is doing is actually more effective than what he thought.”

But the trip did not end the debate.

Nope. Probably nothing will, at least until after the 2008 election. Meanwhile, on the political front, a reader sends a link to this story, which I had somehow missed when it came out the other day:

Huge strides towards peace in Iraq were made during discussions between Middle Eastern power-brokers over the weekend, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister said today.

Martin McGuinness said four days of Finnish talks involving politicians from Northern Ireland and South Africa were a major stepping stone towards a resolution of conflict in the troubled region. . . .

Organisers said the representatives from Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq agreed on a road map to peace during the secret talks in Finland.

The four-day meeting brought together 16 delegates from the feuding groups to study lessons learned from successful peacemaking efforts in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Is there anything to this? Beats me. I’d certainly like it to lead to something.

MORE: Further developments here:

President Bush’s top two military and political advisers on Iraq will warn Congress on Monday that making any significant changes to the current war strategy will jeopardize the limited security and political progress made so far, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has been less forthcoming than Gen. David Petraeus in advance of his testimony, will join Petraeus in pushing for maintaining the U.S. troop surge, seeing it as the only viable option to prevent Iraq and the region from plunging into further chaos, U.S. officials said.

Crocker and Petraeus planned to meet on Sunday to go over their remarks and responses to expected tough questioning from lawmakers – including skeptical Republicans. But they will not consult Bush or their immediate bosses before their appearances Monday and Tuesday, in order to preserve the “independence and the integrity of their testimony,” said one official.

Read the whole thing.