David Miliband and Des Browne take to the Washington Post this morning in an attempt to rebut claims from various US military and intelligence figures that the British have lost the South of Iraq.
The key paragraph of their piece reads:
“Commanders on the ground expect that Basra province will in months, not years, be judged to have met the conditions for transfer to full Iraqi security control. As with each of the seven Iraqi provinces already transferred — four in areas of Iraq previously controlled by U.S.-led forces, three in the south in the U.K.-led area of operations — the final decision will be taken by the Iraqi government, in consultation with the U.S. commander of the multinational force, based on the conditions on the ground.”
What is noteworthy here is the emphasis that they place on General Petraeus’s role in the decision making progress which acts as a balance to their declaration that they’ll be handing over in months not years,
Miliband and Browne also give some full and frank advice to the Iraqi political class. They write that,
“while outsiders can support, advise and encourage, only Iraqi leaders can make the political decisions and compromises essential to the future of their country.
Courageous Iraqi leadership is critical, and it is now needed urgently to shore up the hard-won achievements of the past four years.”
In tone, it sounds worryingly close to the glib line that we gave the Iraqis a republic but they couldn’t keep it.