October 23, 2006: The U.S. is giving the Iraqi government an ultimatum. Either the government disciplines military and police commanders who fail to perform, and cracks down on corruption, or American troops and money will be withdrawn sooner, rather than later. This would result in the large scale slaughter of the Sunni Arab population, and possible intervention by neighboring Sunni majority nations (particularly Saudi Arabia.) This could bring in Iranian participation as well, which is why Saudi Arabia participation would probably be unofficial, and mostly humanitarian (to take in many of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who would flee such chaos.)
This has always been the downside of the United States leaving Iraq prematurely; the destruction of the Sunni Arab community. The U.S. has always been eager to avoid this, especially since similar situations occurred in the 1990s (against the Bosnians in the Balkans, and the Tutsi in Rwanda), and left more than enough blame to go around. But the ineptness of the Iraqi government, and growing calls from war opponents to "get out" has provided the U.S. government with an opportunity to tell everyone to put up, or shut up. While many in the Iraqi government would like to see the Sunni Arabs driven out, no one is looking forward to what would actually happen. Many Sunni Arabs would fight back savagely. There would be thousands of dead Kurds and Shia Arabs. But to many Kurds and, especially Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs have been acting pretty savagely for the last three years. In such a scenario, Iran would provide lots of weapons and "volunteers." This would leave the radical Shia militias stronger, and might lead to a civil war to decide if the next government is a religious dictatorship, or a democracy. The Kurds, who have been largely sitting out the fighting over the last three years, would assist the Shia Arabs, if only to insure that the Sunni Arabs were defeated.
The plan is to give the Iraqi government a list of deadlines, and it's questionable if they will be able to meet them. The traditions of corruption, cronyism and tribal politics are difficult to overcome quickly. The Iraqis plead that democracy takes time, but it's election year in the United States, and democracy also means winning elections.
October 22, 2006: Fighting continues at an intense level. In Anbar Province, the tribal alliance to go after terrorists has increased the level of violence, and increased violence in Baghdad, where Sunni Arabs fear being driven out of the country, has pushed the U.S. casualty rate to its highest level in two years.
October 19, 2006: In the south, a feud between Shia factions broke out into major fighting that left at least 25 dead. It began when Sadr supporters (members of the "Mahdi Army") killed a senior police official. The family of the dead commander then kidnapped a relative of the Mahdi Army commander, and threatened to kill the captive if the murderers of the police official were not turned over. The Mahdi militia, already unhappy with increasing police pressure on them, launched an attack on police headquarters. This brought in the army, and the militiamen withdrew.
October 18, 2006: Terrorists have a new tactic for going after informants. Terrorists disguised as soldiers have been going around neighborhoods, where people have been phoning in tips to the police, handing out cards with a new tip line phone number. The soldiers say there will be rewards for callers to this new line. But it's a trap, to identify tipsters, and murder them, and thus discourage people from reporting on terrorist activities.