18 December, 2006

Tony Blair in Iraq

On his historic mission to secure peace in our sometime for the Middle East, the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity to visit British troops in Iraq. According to Downing Street, he is"four-square behind Iraq".
He said that British forces would remain in Iraq "until the job is done" and that the handover of power to Iraqi forces in Basra was "going well."

"Our policy is that as the Iraqi forces are capable of taking over control of the city of Basra so our forces stand back and go to a support role."
Both the BBC and the Independent focus on Blair's remarks to soldiers that the long term ambition to reduce troops numbers should not be read as as a change of policy.:
...the Prime Minister told an audience of about 300 troops from the 19 Light Brigade: "This isn't a change of our policy. Don't be under any doubt at all. British troops will remain until the job is done.

"Our country and countries like it are having to rediscover what it means to fight for what we believe in. This is real conflict, real battle, and it is a different kind of enemy - not fighting a state, but fighting a set of ideas and ideologies, a group of extremists who share the same perspective.
All this seems to be in accord with the Defence secretary's Chatham House speech, in which Des Browne indicated that Basra is the key and that, whatever the Foreign Office might say about a spring withdrawal, British policy is to stand by our allies and the Iraqi people until the task is completed. So despite the major concerns over the armed forces' manning and equipment, for once, at least, Blair deserves some credit for taking the right, as opposed to the easy, option.

Not that Blair is getting much credit from the British press. At the time of posting, except for a brief negative reference in a leader, the Guardian is ignoring Blair in Iraq. In both an article and a leader, the Daily Telegraph puts a negative spin on the story; whilst the Times reports on Blair in Iraq in the context of the headline "Blair snubbed by Bush move to send more troops to Iraq". How they work that out is beyond me. I think the Thunderer must be confusing Blair and the MoD with the appeasers at the Foreign Office.

No comments: