Brits May Be Out Of Iraq By End Of Year
Do you think that The Poodle knows something about Bush's plans for Iran?
On the morning that John Murtha pointed out that Iraq is now in worse shape than it was before regime change, Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Baghdad today and said that the Brits are getting ready to go. Both Blair and new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said today that it is hoped that the Brits will turn over all four of the provinces they control to the Iraqi security forces by the end of this year, with the first two being handed over as early as next month. (Remember that Professor Juan Cole told us over the weekend that any US attack against Iran would punish the British forces in four southern provinces)
Al-Maliki went even further in saying that it is hoped that Iraqi security forces will take over security from the Americans and Brits in 16 of the 18 provinces by the end of 2006, leaving Baghdad and the al-Anbar province as the only two where Americans will still be in charge at the end of this year. Remember that one of the reasons the Bush Administration wanted former Prime Minister al-Jaffiri out was his promise behind the scenes that if reelected, he would demand the Americans leave Iraq. Al-Maliki and al-Jaffiri are associates.
Note the joint communiqué that Blair issued today with al-Maliki:
"There is an agreement for the transfer of security under a timetable which starts in June when Iraqi forces will take control of the provinces of Samawa and Amara," Mr. al-Maliki said.
"The other provinces will be transferred gradually and by the end of this year most of them will (be under Iraqi security control), with the exception of Baghdad and perhaps Al-Anbar" - referring to two provinces that have borne the brunt of insurgent violence.
"The Iraqi Prime Minister said that his Government will, in the weeks ahead, work with the Multi-National Force (MNF) on the details of the transition to Iraqi control," the statement said.
"The Iraqi-isation of security means that, as security responsibility grows, so the MNF can over time reduce presence and focus instead on the role of helping train and develop the Iraqi security forces.
"The MNF, for its part, is committed to staying until the Iraqi government is satisfied that Iraqi forces can take on the security responsibilities themselves. The two governments agreed that they looked forward to Iraqi forces progressively and quickly taking on full responsibility for security from the multi-national forces in the cities and provinces of Iraq, on the basis of conditions set out by the Iraqi government to this end.
"The MNF, which is in Iraq under UN Resolution 1546, will stay only as long as the Iraqi government wishes it to. This process of transition will start in some provinces in the coming months, and by the end of this year responsibility for much of Iraq’s territorial security should have been transferred to Iraqi control."
Note how Blair just tied Bush to the fencepost there.
In a piece for Raw Story this morning, Michael Smith of the Sunday Times reports that in fact Blair and Bush will announce a withdrawal, termed a “transition” to Iraqi security forces, when the two meet later this week. In fact, Bush is signaling a withdrawal this morning. According to Smith, Bush will agree to reducing the American presence by only 33,000 to 100,000 by the end of 2006, whereas Blair is cutting at least half of his forces this year, and possibly all of them.
But remember, Bush doesn't read polls ....