23 November, 2006

Beckett on Iraq.

That's that then. Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary, has signalled that British troops could be out of Iraq by next spring. Yesterday, in Parliament, Beckett said,

We expect Najaf to be the next province to be transferred to Iraqi control, in December. In our own area of responsibility, we expect Maysan to follow in January. And the progress of our current operation in Basra gives us confidence that we may be able to achieve transition in that province too at some point next Spring. There is therefore a clear forward perspective - notwithstanding the very obvious difficulties Iraq faces. It demands our wholehearted attention and unwavering support.
The Foreign office has the full text of the speech.

Both the Guardian, and the Times resport that the speech was cleared beforehand with Downing Steret and link the time-scale of the possible withdrawal with the time-scale of Tony Blair's departure from office.

The Daily Telegraph is not impressed and discerns political rather military logic in Beckett's speech.
It might seem incongruous that the Foreign Secretary should be talking about British forces relinquishing responsibility for security in Iraq when the killing of civilians has reached an unprecedented level.

But a minister as durable as Margaret Beckett is nothing if not sensitive to the prevailing wind, and on both sides of the Atlantic that is blowing strongly against the continuation of the present policy.

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