By this time next week, we'll know what General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have to say to Congress - their testimony begins on Monday, September 10th, before a joint meeting of the House Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees. The next day, they appear before the counterpart committees in the Senate (I just came out of a meeting to plan coverage - what do we carry live, do we offer a produced, one hour "wrap" of the days events in the evening... how do we co-ordinate coverage with other shows, etc).
But at least the outlines of the presentations to Congress and the formal report required by September 15th are already clear - the General and the administration will argue that there's been some important success militarily, and that while political progress may not be all we might hope, it would be foolish to risk hard-won gains by starting to withdraw American forces and redefining the US role in Iraq. Critics, of course, will focus on the lack of political progress - wasn't the point of the effort to provide a breathing space for politics to move ahead? - on the ephemeral nature of reported military gains, the continued, bloody toll on all sides, the enormous expense, and the opinion polls.
Today, we'll try to answer your questions a week ahead of the testimony - our guests are Jack Keane, a retired four star general and an adviser to General Petraeus, and military expert Anthony Cordesman, an independent analyst who's been critical of administration policy.
Whether you're a skeptic, a believer, or just confused, we need your questions - how do we measure progress? How are we doing against al-Qaida in Iraq? How real is the change of heart by Sunni tribes in Anbar province? Is it possible the US is arming and training both sides for a civil war yet to come? Does any of this matter if the Iraqi government is dysfunctional? What about fighting among the Shiia?