UK Withdrawing from Iraq

Tony Blair is getting his boys out:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will order nearly half the British troops in Iraq home by the end of 2007, British news outlets reported early Wednesday.

Blair will tell the House of Commons Wednesday that 1,500 soldiers will return to Britain within weeks, and 3,000 will follow suit by the end of the year, The Sun newspaper reported. Britain has a contingent of 7,000 in Iraq now, based mostly in the southern city of Basra.

The move comes a month after Blair said that an "arbitrary timetable" for withdrawal "would send the most disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq."

You'll no doubt be interested in this domestic response:

But in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney said the move was actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq.

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

Ahhh, good old Cheney. How predictably wrong. Is there anything, ever, that represents a setback to that man? Everything is good news, no matter how vexing.

Even if Cheney were correct that this is a good sign, it still doesn't explain why the British are leaving. If they were still committed to the mission, the troops would be redeployed to Baghdad to help with the troop surge. I doubt we'll hear that question answered.

The real problem here is that Iran is naturally strongest in the south. This withdrawal means a leadership vacuum which Iran will partly fill. Also, we will have more porous borders between our forces and Iran. Cheney no doubt is aware of these facts, considered it ponderously, and then made his statement anyway because it would be politically damaging to speak the truth, and from the Libby trial we know how far Cheney will go to avoid political damage.

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