Friday, May 25, 2007

Gideon Rachman: Still Heading for the Exit in Iraq

Gideon Rachman writes, in the FT:

Gideon Rachman's Blog: Still heading for the exit in Iraq:

The decision by Congress to authorise extra funding for the Iraq war - without setting a deadline for withdrawal - is being portrayed in some places as a capitulation by the anti-war crowd. Not at all. It simply means that the crucial political struggle over withdrawal from Iraq has been delayed a few months. The real battle is going to take place in September. At that point, all of the American troops set aside for "the surge" will have been in Iraq for several months. In September General David Petraeus, on whom so many American hopes are hanging, is also due to give a crucial "status report" to Congress. If the news looks bad, then Congressional moves to get the troops out will begin in earnest. The Iraqi insurgents will doubtless factor this into their calculations. President Bush is already predicting a bloody August.

Earlier this week I met a couple of senior Republican politicians. One of them was still strongly pro-war and convinced that progress is being made; the other was wavering. But both were worried that Congress is still liable to pull the plug on the war effort prematurely. And both see September as the crunch month. By then, the presidential election campaign will also be in full swing. With the Iraq war more unpopular than ever, the campaign is only likely to increase the pressure to get out of Iraq. It was notable that in yesterday's vote, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted against authorising new spending for the war. They know which way the wind is blowing.

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