Gordon Brown with UK troopsIt was not a good week for US forces in Iraq. Seven more US troops were killed just yesterday by roadside bombs, bringing the toll over the weekend to 15 and 71 for the month. The three US troops captured last week have still not been found. Scores of Iraqis continue to be killed daily, perhaps by their own security forces.

George Bush just said goodbye to his friend and closest ally, Tony Blair, but the British press is already reporting that the next British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is likely to announce further withdrawals of British troops from Iraq. From the UK Telegraph:

Gordon Brown is prepared to risk the future of the “special relationship” with the United States by reversing Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq war, President George W Bush has been warned.

He has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister’s popularity in the opinion polls.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington’s main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Details of the talks came as a close ally of Mr Brown called for a quicker withdrawal of British troops. Nigel Griffiths, a former minister, said: “We should get out of Iraq as soon as is practicable. We should consult the Iraqi government — but they cannot have a veto. This cannot be delayed.” . . .

However, it can be revealed that senior figures in the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in Washington have expressed fears about Mr Brown. . . .

One senior official said: “There is a sense of foreboding. We don’t know if he will be there when we need him. We expect a gesture that will greatly weaken the United States government’s position.”

On the same day, a British defense official in Iraq revealed that the US escalation is failing to reduce overall violence — and that US military commanders had scaled back their goals for reducing violence.

In unusually candid comments, Mr Campbell also disclosed that American commanders had decided that the criteria for the “success” of the troop surge would be nothing more than a reduction in violence to the level prior to last year’s al-Qaeda bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome.

The destruction of the shrine, one of the most important Shia sites in the world, led to a dramatic escalation in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia factions, peaking at 3,500 deaths in September last year. Casualty figures had been running at 800 a month before that, a level that few would regard as anything approaching peace.

While the United States military has made little secret of its view that the bloodshed in Iraq can now only be contained, rather than stamped out altogether, the suggestion that 800 murders a month in the country would be a measure of success is an indication of how far the coalition has been forced to reign in its expectations.

All this is coming as Congress is finally about to release part of its long delayed “Phase II” report on the intelligence failures and deceptions leading up to the Iraq invasion. Walter Pincus’ article yesterday confirmed that two intelligence reports, prepared by the National Intelligence Council and given to the White House and Congressional intelligence committees before the invasion accurately warned that invasion and occupation would lead to sectarian violence, while serving as a magnet and recruiting poster for armed resistance throughout the region. Of course, Administration officials dismissed the warnings as too pessimistic, while concealing them from the American public.

So what do we have? Rumsfeld, Bolton, Wolfowitz, gone; Feith about to be exposed again; Kagan plan failing, Gonzales facing no confidence, Rove under seige, the entire National Security team hiding behind a 3-Star Czar, Bush polls at their lowest levels ever, and the British have had enough. Today’s WaPo reports that frustrated Congressional negotiators and a seriously unpopular President may revive the Iraq Study Group recommendations to escape the current impasse — just as James Baker anticipated months ago. But we’re there only because Congress cannot summon the wisdom or courage to tell this President, and themselves, we’ve had enough and it’s time to get out.

Photo from UK Telegraph: Gordon Brown visits UK troops.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

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