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Diddums. William Hague is Shadow Foreign Secretary, not John McCain.

With the foreign policy mess that will be left behind until long after the Blairs have left Downing Street to go and sip cocktails with superannuated pop stars in the Caribbean, we need somebody strong-willed and independently-minded to avoid a repeat performance orchestrated by the White House.

Cameron seems to have changed his tune a bit since his last visit to Iraq (at the time of the CBI conference). He came back saying the security situation was 'absolutely dire' and probably thinks the war is completely unwinnable.More suprisingly George Osborne who I always thought was a bit of a neoCon was also very downbeat on the Bush plan on last weeks Question Time.
Cameron could also have been reading reports from within the Republican party and the US military that show extensive oppposition to Bush's plans. Mc Cain as far as I'm aware is the only person who thinks it a good idea to commit another 50,000 troops for a 'sustained' period. Whether Bush is successful or not McCain may come out of this well because he cannot be proved wrong!

McCain should be more bothered by the fact that he advocates 50,000 and Bush only sends 20,000. If 50,000 was the right number then 20,000 is woefully short.

What we need to do is focus more on the fact that Blair backed Baker-Hamilton and then now backs Bush's 20,000. What an about turn!

Its pure naked opportunism by the very people who hijacked Howard undertaking a sensible policy on Iraq. Remember regime change plus !!!

Unbelievable. I suppose getting the right policy for the wrong reasons is still a step in the right direction but what credibility do the Notting Hill Carnival still possess on foreign policy?

Huge respect for Senator McCain, but the idea that we should allow our Iraq policy to be dictated by what ConservativeHome tells us a US Senator thinks is eccentric. The opinions of our friends around the world matters, but in the case of committing our troops we surely must retain sovereignty.

"we need somebody strong-willed and independently-minded to avoid a repeat performance orchestrated by the White House."

That is essential for British interests, Blair made a huge fundamental mistake by not putting our interests/concerns more to the forefront of discussions with Bush prior to the invasion. We are seen as being equally responsible for many of the decisions we did not even negotiate a say in.
David Cameron must put the interests of Britain and our armed forces first, rather than blindly agree with the views of a politician who is running for the Republican nomination in the USA. To do anything else would be to compound the mistakes made by Blair.
Cameron needs to be a strong independent leader not beholden to the USA any more than Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
Part of the reason the Reagan/Thatcher years were so beneficial to them both, was because neither ever forgot their first loyalty was to the country they led. It was the reason that the mutual respect earned over the period of their time in office continued for many years to come.

HF, hear hear. It's almost as though they learned nothing from the first time.

The Americans have behaved disgracefully in Iraq, not least in their treatment of their allies. As a British patriot I find their attitude insupportable. It is inconceivable that we should continue the Atlantic alliance in its present form of 'all give, no take'. Remember the steel sanctions? Tim, I am an Atlanticist but not interested in being a client of the US. Perhaps you could write an article on what exactly we have gained from our being the sole ally that matters in the WoT, that is the sole ally to send significant troops. Can you offer me any examples of how America has repaid us? Because I can offer you countless examples of how they have demeaned and denigrated us.

Even Lord Tebbit said he was appalled at it. McCain-Guiliani is my preferred Republican ticket, but we will manage our own affairs, thanks very much.

It's time the Yanks learned that the US President is not, and never was "the leader of the free world", and certainly does not lead or command the UK.

Iraq is very much an American problem. The squabbling is the pre-presidential-election pavane and we should give this the widest possible swerve. Let the Yanks slug it out, and let Dave continue the criticism of our present government's incompetent regime and the illegal war they committed to.
Our policy should be one of disengagement, prefably before the Yanks disengage in a precipitate fashion.
Speculation and involvement in American affairs, particularly presidential elections, breeds a lot of resentment from our "colonial friends", as has been seen in the past and it is better to be aloof and then say hello to the eventual winner, having made no enemies.
It has been said before, but, American interests are American interests, and they do not necessarily correspond with everybody else's interests and it is dangerous to ally to the Yanks too closely, as you are unable to have sufficient influence to ensure a course of action is taken to the end. That will mean that any ally is out on a limb and subject to the whims of a capricious legislature, that is solely concerned with trimming a presidents power and influence and posturing.

Couldn't have put it better myself Tory T.

ToryT: "Tim, I am an Atlanticist but not interested in being a client of the US. Perhaps you could write an article on what exactly we have gained from our being the sole ally that matters in the WoT, that is the sole ally to send significant troops. Can you offer me any examples of how America has repaid us?"

Your comment, ToryT, reveals, I fear, a fundamental misunderstanding of why our troops are fighting in Iraq. They are not fighting because of what we owe America but because Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. If we retreat from Iraq without establishing some sort of order and defeating the key terrorist factions you can be sure that Iraq will become a major base from which attacks on us will be plotted and orchestrated.

The troop surge - inadequate as it is - is our last, best hope of some sort of victory. It is disappointing that the Conservative Party has not supported it. I am relieved, however, that 51% of Tory members appeared sympathetic to the idea in the most recent ConservativeHome survey.

PS It is also not true that Bush hasn't given Blair anything for his support. Let us not forget that it was Blair who pushed Bush to focus on WMD. Before Blair insisted on the UN route Bush talked much less about WMD and much more about the need to rid the world of an odious regime.

I can't see why we should be objecting to the troop surge per se (British forces aren't involved), or endorsing the Baker plan (the idea that Iran and Syria might want to help the US out of its difficulties in Iraq is laughable).

That doesn't alter the fact that Iraq has been a ghastly mess.

America was never going to deploy 50,000 troops to Iraq – its army is already stretched and its public opinion would not permit it.

It would be naive to think that McCain has anything on his mind apart from his presidential election campaign. As Malcolm suggests, it’s very possible that McCain is arguing for 50,000 because it allows him to say “you never tried my solution”. It also allows him to strengthen his integrity brand – “I was prepared to be a maverick for what was right” (without ever having to test whether he was actually right). And crucially, the idea of a president who might retreat causes panic amongst Republicans. McCain’s hawkishness will put him in good standing for the GOP nomination.

Iraq may well be the central front in the war against terror...Editor 11.07....but, only because Bush and Blair made it that. Saddam may well have been an abhorrent little scrote that has received his just rewards, but he was not involved in international terrorism.
Using a false premise, WMD, to oust him, has given the Islamic world a cause, and created unison for Jihad against the west, and raised the profile of the radicals and fundamentalists. It has meant that we now have to fight the terrorists and extremists on two main fronts, and have created the will for the rest of the moslem world to establish their centres of terrorism.
That truly is a job well done by Bush and Blair.
For Bushes' NeoCon supporters they get their crusade and develop extremist christianity, us, we get crapped on.

Tim, not so. Bush threw Blair the fig leaf he needed to gain parliamentary consent, without which Bush would not have secured his goal of an entire province secured by British blood - so who was doing whom the favour? It is also incorrect to say that Iraq is the central front of the WoT. Without a doubt, Iran, with its soon to be nuclear capability, is that central front. And we have not yet pacified Afghanistan. There is a strong case to be made that Pakistan, for more than Iraq, is fomenting terror - in fact Pakistan and Saudi Arabia matter more in terms of a) growing actual terrorists and b) offering them infrastructure and finance to support terror.

We have performed the noble task of liberating a people but because we have had insufficient say in the planning of the peace, much of our good work has been wasted. We receive less than nothing from the Americans, in fact we have been treated with actual contempt, I am happy to cite examples if you wish.

No British patriot should accept such a thing. No more than Thatcher gave Reagan short shrift when he tried to side with Argentina as well as the UK over the Falklands. Nor were we even notified of the invasion of Grenada.

This cannot continue. Those concerned about terror need to look long and hard at Saudi Arabia. Since the Americans have failed utterly in their post-war planning in Iraq, and surrendered their moral authority with Abu Ghraib etc, it is time for them and not for us to provide the extra troops they should have offered in the first place.

Ed. - I'm surprised to hear you trotting out the Bush line that Iraq is the 'central front on the war on terror'. Not only is it utter nonsense (there's scant evidence that anything but a handful of the 'terrorists' in Iraq are homegrown) and seems to overlook the fact that there were NO terrorists in Iraq until we invaded. If they're there now, it's because we created the environment for them.

The 'war on terror' was not the justification for the invasion of Iraq, any more than regime change was. That those who continue to defend this foreign policy catastrophe now cite both as 'reasons' for the war, reveals just how threadbare their justifications have become.

I think I received an email from a contact in the White House last week is the best start to a CH Editorial yet. Most of us get emails from clients and our families.

It's possible that the surge is, as Tim suggests, the last best hope to bring about more internal security for the Iraqis and hence for ourselves, while at the same time not believing that it will succeed. Unfortunately this doesn't come across well as a Great Policy does it? And the calculus of death means most people find it abhorrent (low probability of success, high probability of more allies being killed).

I despair about the War on Terror. I believed in the neocon proposition and am not relativist about the importance of democratic values nor about their ultimate potency as a block on the ambition of totalitarian regimes. But it hasn't worked in the short term in Iraq, has it?

Was it worth all the British deaths to get a government (using the term loosely) whose greatest impact on the civilised world has been to cause repugnance at the way it carries out judicial execution?

Was it worth all the British deaths to give Iran a toehold in Iraq in which to expand its powerbase?

Was it worth any of this when we were lied to by the Executive about the immediate necessity for the conflict? Somewhat independent of the main objective I know (either the campaign is worthwhile or it is not, somewhat independent of whether or not Blair lied to us beforehand) but it of course clouds one's judgement about what's happening now, of course it does.

I think your last comment Tim reveals your own misunderstanding at what is happening on the ground in Iraq. Currently coalition troops are really only interested in Sunni insurgents (Al-queda and Baathists) and generally speaking Shia terrorists whilst not exactly tolerated are generally allowed to exist unmolested by both American and British troops.
As I understand it the extra troops involved in the 'surge' are to be based primarily in Baghdad and Anbar province (which is predominantly Sunni).So whilst they may be successful in helping to curb Sunni terrorism they will have little effect on Shia terrorism which is now probably more prevalent. Therefore the 'victory' of which you write (which I presume you mean a democratic and peaceful Iraq)is not in my opinion going to be brought the slightest bit closer by this plan from Bush.
Cameron probably realises this which is why it seems he's changed his opinion. Even HMG which let's face it has not the slightest idea of a strategy for some time is now talking more and more of withdrawal.Perhaps it really is the only sensible thing to do.

George Hinton: "Iraq may well be the central front in the war against terror...Editor 11.07....but, only because Bush and Blair made it that."

But it is the central front in the war on terror. That is the crucial thing now, George. We can play an endless game of Political Gotcha on the rights and wrongs of going to war or we can try and solve the Iraq problem.

The intention, malcolm, is also, I have read, to deploy troops in the Shia-controlled Sadr City at some point but because of the relatively small size of the surge this is not being done immediately.

The 'surge' is unfortunately a little splash as HF points out. If 50k are needed, 20k are inadequate.

Under no circumstances should we send more troops to Iraq at present.

Tut tut Tim. As far as I know, neither the 9/11 nor 7/7 attacks were planned in Saddam's Iraq, nor were any Iraqi nationals involved.

The whole episode has been a disaster, and the occupation of Iraq has done nothing more than recruit more soldiers to the armies of radical Islam.

It's heartening to read the overwhelming number of posts which question the US position and the UK's relation to it.

We have (under Blair) traded national interest for ideology in foreign affairs, the sad thing is that some conservatives have gone along with the Blair & Bush 'vision'.

Afghanistan was, and remains, the crucible of anti-western terrorism, the fool's errand in Iraq has made us considerably less safe because of the thinly spread troops and the enmity which it has engendered.

On the subject of McCain, having seen his awful speech at conference I would be surprised if he enthuses enough people in a campaign for the nomination. I feel that he's there purely as a default position and someone else will come along to usurp him.

It is also not true that Bush hasn't given Blair anything for his support. Let us not forget that it was Blair who pushed Bush to focus on WMD. Before Blair insisted on the UN route Bush talked much less about WMD and much more about the need to rid the world of an odious regime.
The war was right, the Rumsfeld strategy was wrong and the approach to getting support for the war was a disaster - certainly Iraq had had a nuclear programme (since abandoned that would be resumed if international attention shifted away from it) and had used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish civilians and Iranian civilians in the past, what sort of WMD's they had in 2003 and their capability to launch them was little known but certainly it was known that they had missiles that exceeded the range set by the 1991 Ceasefire Treaty that justified action and that they were working on new guidance systems abd were playing games with weapons inspectors. Iraq is a big country - stocks of chemical weapons could be in underground bunkers forgotten about in the desert (the IRA had such stores that the intelligence services could not find and that's in the UK not a large country such as Iraq despite local knowledge and powers by UK authorities) or could have been sold and smuggled out - border security in Iraq is very important, most of Iraq is now mostly peaceful with the action overwhelmingly going on around Baghdad and other central areas and this is where the focus needs to be.

It certainly was a very evil regime - Baathism was actually quite benign in origin, certauinly well intentioned, but it was corrupted in Iraq and Syria notably by Saddam Hussein. The Baathist regime was ruining the environment in the south of Iraq, threatening neighbouring countries and of course it's attempts to seize territory, carrying out ethnic cleansing of Kurds and Marsh Arabs, squandering vast sums of money on huge statues and palaces in Saddam's honour and on a lavish lifestyle for senior Baath Party members and on prolonged absurdly high military spending - you don't have to be an economist to realise that spending a fifth of GDP on the Armed Forces is just not sustainable for long and is counter productive in that a smaller economy will mean less money to spend.

McCain's idea for a 50,000 troop surge is/was a good one (and I supported a troop surge in the survey), but if Bush cannot do what is neccessary to have a chance at winning, then we should stop fannying about and just withdraw.

McCain may be right, but his idea is no longer on the table.

Incidentally, there was a very powerful Dispatches programme on extremist Islam in Britain last night. C4 must have making up for their normal bias all in one go.

Pacifying Iraq and giving the people there a reason NOT to turn to the extremist views of either the Wahabiist or Iranian extremists should be our over-riding foreign policy goal.

If Iraq fragments - as it could following a too early withdrawl - then the south goes Iranian, The Kurds declare UDI and the sunnis ally with Jordan, but get over-run by the Iranians, who have joined up with the Taliban who have also re-taken Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan as well.

Turkey wades into Kurdistan to prevent them taking back their lands in Southern Turkey and the second best and biggest army in NATO is lost to us as France insists they be expelled.

An uneasy truce forms between the ba'athist sunnis in Jordan and the Iranian shia in the south, probably based on a common cause to destry Israel, though this will remain unspoken and be left to Hammas and Hezbollah to do the dirty work, probably with Iranian heavy armour rather than nukes, but they will be in the background to prevent US/EU coming to Israel's aid.

Israel capitualtes and 4m Jews flee to the EU, which places them n transit camps as it cannot cope. The lucky ones get to the US.

Because NATO expelled Turkey over their invasion of Kurdistan, when the Islamist alliance attacks them, only we go to their aid, soon being defeated as Ahmendinejad rides into Istanbul on a tank. the Balkans and most of the south of old USSR falls to the islamists and they over-run Saudi Arabia to "re-capture" Mecca. More likely the Saudi wahabiists overthrow house Saud and then press on into Egypt and north Africa, crossing the Mediteranean at Gibralta to "re-take" southern Spain.

The EU has collapsed, Western Europe is gazing up its own backside looking for a "peaceful solution" as Holland declares sharia law.

Couldn't happen? Don't bet on it when you are dealing with fanatical madmen who want to establish domain over all the earth based on an ushakebale belief that, "Gott mit uns", as it used to say on the belt buckles of Hitler's armies.

The greatest challenge of our age is Islamic extremism coupled with the proliferation of chemical/nuclear weapons. that challenge is not on the horizon. It is alrady here. I am totally at a loss to understand how the Tory Party would respond to this challenge....other than to bury its head in the sand and pretend it does not exist, following in the footsteps of Stanley Baldwin in the mid-1930's. You can criticise the Iraq policy as much as you like but I would love to know what Cameron, Hague, Tory T, Cardinal Pirelli and Changetowin are proposing as Plan B, other than a bad imitation of feeble Gaullist isolationism. How many divisions has the UK?

Not many Michael;in fact very few.


Mr McGowan, the mistakes have already been made, Afghanistan was right but prosecuted with feebleness regarding the aftermath. Iraq was plain and simply the wrong place and has created a myriad of problems.

We do, however, have to go from here not the past and the Baker-Hamilton report was as good a starting point as any. I would particularly like a position to be taken whereby Saudi is held to account regarding its citizens activities. Above all this, however, is the need for the powerful groups across the middle east to be used, where it is at all possible, and yes that must include some who may be regarded as terrorists by some. We had to do this in NI and we have to do it here; ideology is off the menu, pragmatism is the only option.

What you seem to be describing amounts to stoking a civil war (even further) in the Middle East. A pretty high risk activity I would have thought, especially when Tory policy seems to be to distance itself from the only democracies (the USA and Israel) which have any military muscle in the region.

I am not sure what the analogy with Ireland is. The territorial, military and ideological ambitions of the loathsome Gerry Adams were at least limited.....at least compared to those of the current President of Iran.

"But it is the central front in the war on terror. That is the crucial thing now, George. We can play an endless game of Political Gotcha on the rights and wrongs of going to war or we can try and solve the Iraq problem."

Tim, I am sorry but you are wrong on your most fundamental point, and I agree with too many of the points raised by various posters to list.
It is only the central front in the war on terror in the Bush and Rumsfeld strategy handbook!
It was not the case before the invasion and neither is it the case now. All this policy has achieved is to open up another front for US and British troops to be bogged down in.
We broke Iraq into too many pieces to ever realistically think that an increased military option can glue it back together.
It has just become another rallying point for terrorists (home grown/foreign) to flock too and our troops are basically sitting ducks. We are now on the brink of a sectarian civil war in Iraq and no amount of wishful thinking or a "one more push" mentality will alter the future outcome. We never fully grasped control of the situation at the beginning, and have now become the problem rather than the solution.
We had an opportunity to really make a difference when we invaded Iraq, and we blew it! We went in for the wrong reasons and we did not have a properly thought out strategy never mind the will to implement it in full.
Look what has happened in Afghanistan, we have sent in too few troops and equipment and have left them to fight a war, we are now holed up in Helmand province while the Taliban gather and regroup in what seems like a never ending serious of attacks. We never seem to learn from previous experience and keep trying to fight a traditional war against an ever changing threat which adapts and evolves constantly.
As I said on a previous thread, the insurgents/terrorists are fighting the war on their terms, they are mobile, can disappear and then strike anywhere in the world.
We have made the region even more unstable and been thoroughly discredited on the world stage, never mind the fact that we will now be a target for generations to come.
We need to completely withdraw from Iraq sooner rather than later, regroup and form a completely new strategy for dealing with this new type of terrorism. We then need to invest adequate resources in all the relevant government departments to try and effectively tackle the bases as well as the infrastructure of these groups.
I don't care if we sound hawkish or doveish, as long as we are implementing an effective strategy which is helping to solve home grown or foreign terrorism.

I fail to see how talking with the powers of the different countries in the area is going to stoke a civil war. Military might will make the situation worse, it is time to bring people to the table. It is, maybe, doomed to short term failure but it's a start and long term solutions need to begin somewhere.

The analogy with Ireland is that it takes strength of will to make the right decisions, the Baker-Hailton report showed that strength, not the intellectual weakness of the neo-con worldview.

This may be well-meaning but it is utterly vacuous. What are you going to talk to the President of Iran and Al-Quaeda about if and when you bring all these people to the table, especially as both want Israel wiped off the map, their arsenals boosted with nuclear weapons and in the case of Iran, control of Iraq's oil supplies? Isn't this just Munich Syndrome revisited.....with the inevitable consequences? In any case, neither Isreal and the US are going to let it happen like that so you will just end up despised and sidelined, as the French have done. Maybe that is what you want....the right to strike moral poses and isolationist attitudes while relying on the US to do your dirty work for you.

The Baker Report advocated withdrawal from Iraq and did not propose a Plan B. And? I doubt the relevance of Ireland. However, even if you think it was right to give a murderous bigot like Gerry Adams most of his wishlist (I don't) in a part of the world where the UK does at least have military muscle, applying the same approach in the Middle East where you have no control over the outcome strikes me as Russian Roulette.

Michael re your Hague,Cameron,changetowin etc line, you had better add me to that list. I have to say I'm not sure how I answer you because I don't really believe that 'Islamic extremism is the greatest challenge of our age'. That is not to say that it is not important and should not be fought. But do you really think that Iraq is the correct place to fight it?Do you see even the slightest scintilla of hope that we might yet be victorious? Do you think the strategy that anyone has suggested is even half credible? I can't say yes to any of those and futhermore believe that the current strategy if you can call it that and the 'surge' has nothing to do with winning a 'victory' of any description and everything to do with trying to avoid the humiliation of the origibnal proponents of the war. The Tory party should not help them and no more of our troops should pay with their lives.

The McCain Strategy is to an extent what the British did in Kenya and Malaya - put in overwhelming force to overcome insurgency. But it will not work unless the US can cut the insurgents off from local support and close the borders. Otherwise its just a way of delaying the inevitable pull out.

In Malaya the British & Commonwealth forces were about 40,000 against at most 8,000. In Kenya it was less overwhelming but still the British Forces, local settlers & Kenyan police & volunteers vastly outnumbered the Mau Mau.

Other differences:
The 20,000 probably isn't overwhelming enough. In both Kenya & Malaya there was no bordering ally to the insurgents - in Iraq there's Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, in Afghanistan Pakistan (NW Frontier tribes & probably inteligence services).

In both Kenya and Malaya the population was re-housed in secure managed villages/settlements - over a million people in Kenya and something like half a million in Malaya. Are the US intending to sweep through Sadr City and the Sunni triangle and relocate the populations?

The British rewarded the loyalty by in Kenya actually meeting many of the demands for majority rule, in Malaya by grantng Malayan independence during the emergency. They rehoused people in improved accomodation and had a big push for hearts & minds.

The British were resolute and hard on the insurgents - there were huge numbers hanged and shoot to kill operated widely. No longer possible in our current 24 hour TV news world.

John Moss, if one thing is certain in all this it is that Israel will never capitulate.

20,000 is not enough. 200,000 might be enough, but that number isn't available. Still, I agree that we can't just bunk off and leave behind the mess we've created.

Mr McGowan, as Malcolm said, the threat has been aggrandised and given a momentum which was not necessary, this needs to be reversed and further military adventures will not do that. There has to be a time when you survey the wreckage and work out how you piece it back together. Bush had that chance and has gone for the opposite action. Well, we'll see, but he hasn't covered himself in glory so far.

Iran has been pushed into a corner and elected a crazed idiot, it need not be that way, in many ways Iran is a great hope for the middle east. The partition of Iraq is near inevitable now but beyond that there are so many problems to address - Palestine, the Lebanese border area, the resurgent Taleban and so on that the option of fighting them all is a foolish one, destined to glorious, or rather inglorious, failure.

We aren't going to get the middle east we want therefore so we have to work towards a middle east that at least is addressing its own problems instead of blaming the west and with us giving them the ammunition for that blame.

The time for might has gone, the neo-cons failure has been the death knell of this, the time for reconstruction is here; withdraw troops from Iraq, strengthen those in Afghanistan, admit to mistakes and vow to work to a peaceable middle east without thought of profit or of ideological battles.

Other big differences between Kenya and Malaya and Iraq are (a) the British fought one group of insurgents in the former, in Iraq we face two or three, (b) we are not fighting one of them (the Shia)in any meaningful way at all.

Denis Cooper,

You say "20,000 is not enough. 200,000 might be enough, but that number isn't available. Still, I agree that we can't just bunk off and leave behind the mess we've created."

If 20,000 isn't enough, what are we hanging around for? If McCain had got his 50,000 we could stick it out for the sake of future victory. Without that we are just losing men while hoping for something to turn up (or to save egos).

"If we retreat from Iraq without establishing some sort of order and defeating the key terrorist factions you can be sure that Iraq will become a major base from which attacks on us will be plotted and orchestrated."

Editor - you assume it is in our power to do this. After nearly 4 years does that seem realistic?

Michael, at the moment the US, Britain and Israel are the ones who are despised and sidelined!
France rightly or wrongly has more credibility on the world diplomatic stage than any of us.
As for Iran, it is involved/funding insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan very successfully without officially leaving their own doorstep!
We have given the Iranian president the platform and oxygen to promote his rhetoric and weakened our chances of curbing his nuclear ambitions.
We were too busy writing WMD dossiers on Iraq, when we should have been building diplomatic bridges to head off this much more credible threat of WMD.
And any properly researched and thought out strategy on Iran will advise you that to make threatening hawkish statements about the country, will strengthen President Ahmadinejad rather than weaken him. A much more clever and subtle (you might say doveish) strategy could leave the Iranian people to make their own judgement on his leadership and direction there. If not we are in trouble because we don't have the domestic backing, military resources or money to fight another Iraq.

Bush and Blair will go down in history as the pair who made the world even more dangerous, and wrecked the credibility of the Atlantic alliance which previous Republican and Conservative leaders built.

Malcolm, happy to add you to the list. I do not think that Iraq is a success story but (a) I have no reason to believe that doing nothing in 2003 was an option either; and (b) I am far from clear what any of you, Scotty and Cardinal Pirelli are proposing other than isolationism. France has little credibility on the international stage: they are easily bought by any tyrant and their guiding principle often seems to be that the enemy of America is my friend. As de Gaulle said in a moment of honesty: "We owe them too much to be grateful".

Cardinal Pirelli makes the huge mistake of thinking that the failed states of the Middle East will ever stop blaming the West. They will not because they have no solutions to their own problems and just as in post-colonial Africa, it is always easier to deflect discontent by crying racism and colonialism rather than addressing real issues.

Scotty, your suggestions are fanciful. Iran is a theocratic despotism. That is why it elected its current President. The idea that its people have any real say in its future is nonsense. I work with enough Iranian emigres to know that. Why on earth would Iran curb its nuclear ambitions in response to your "building of diplomatic bridges"? They know that nuclear powers confers serious muscle and that you and your ilk are a busted flush. Your doctrine is appeasement pure and simple: they can and should listen politely to your well-meaning diplomatic approaches and just carry on with their nuclear programme.

You say that 'doing nothing was not an option in 2003' Michael. How has removing (an admittedly odious dictator) the biggest threat to the hegemony of Iran in the area advanced Western interests by one iota?
I am not an isolationist, I am in favour of prosecuting the war in Afghanistan and against Al-queda properly not in the utterly half arsed way we are currently.At this rate following this non stategy of a strategy we are going to lose in both theatres and a hell of a lot of lives will be lost for no purpose.

Malcolm, I agree with your second paragraph. Very much. On the first one, aren't you being wise after the event? Quite apart from the fact that the man was an utterly barbaric monster, he had since the late 1980's become as big a regional menace as Iran. He had long outlived his usefulness as a counterpoise to them and I don't believe that he didn't have a nuclear and chemical weapons programme, though I do believe that Blair played fast and loose with the evidence.

Am I missing something but why isn't Iraq simply partitioned into a Sunni part, a Shiite part and a Kurdish part? Presumably Iran will control the Shiite part but the other parts could be an effective bulwark against Iranian ambitions if properly supported. A bit like postwar Germany come to think of it.

"b) I am far from clear what any of you, Scotty and Cardinal Pirelli are proposing other than isolationism.

"They know that nuclear powers confers serious muscle and that you and your ilk are a busted flush. Your doctrine is appeasement pure and simple: they can and should listen politely to your well-meaning diplomatic approaches and just carry on with their nuclear programme."

Michael, I do not underestimate the threat of Iran having nuclear weapons, and you would be incorrect to accuse me of following a doctrine of appeasement and diplomacy alone. Maybe the points I made in my last couple of posts were too subtle for you?
If you take on terror groups like Al Qaeda or countries like Iran do it effectively by beating them at their own strategy.
You seem to be advocating that we stick with the "busted flush" of a strategy we have now and that's it?

Scotty, I wouldn't describe your previous posts as subtle. They seem to be all about clutching at diplomatic straws. I still have no idea how you propose we prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons if we are not prepared to contemplate military action, at least as a last resort. Or do you think that it is OK for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?

Re your second paragraph. The Shiite part is more than 60% of Iraq and has about 90% of the oil reserves. Giving this to Iran will serve our interests how?
The Sunni part is probably not viable on its own with few natural rescources and under those circumstances it is difficult to see why any Sunni would want to stop fighting.

You also have to remember that apart from setting up an Iranian puppet in the south, a Syrian puppet in the centre, and a Kurdish statelet that will either destabilise Turkey or be crushed by surrounding powers; Iraq does not actually split up neatly into 3 ethnic blocs. There is for example a huge number of Shia in Baghdad, there are large Sunni communities in Kurdistan, etc. - a split will bring on the full-blown civil war.

Whilst we do not have a perfect foreign policy record, we shouldn't look to our continental partners as a guide if past performance is anything to go by.

The enemies of democracy and apologists for Islamofascism are out in force. I suppose I should have expected nothing better.

Looks like Sen McCain will be crossing Cameron off his Christmas card list

Malcolm, perhaps I should ask in that case how cutting and running from the entirety of Iraq advances our interests.....because that seems (?) to be your favoured approach? What makes you so confident that Iran would not have staked a claim to the Shia part of Iraq anyway, together with its oil, once it had acquired nuclear weapons, which it could do with impunity if we followed the Scotty Doctrine?

As far as I can see the argument seems to run that we should never have gone into Iraq anyway because there was a perfectly good dictator keeping the lid on the place and keeping the Iranians at bay. I query this (see my earlier post) but in any case, given that we are there now anyway and Saddam is gone, what do we do next?

I am sure partitioning Iraq will be messy. Partitions always are: India and Pakistan, Ireland; the Sudetenland; Poland, etc etc. We aren't in a position to physically occupy all of Iraq indefinitely so what is the alternative?

Reading many of the comments on the blog I am struck by how purile and narrow they are. Saying that we or the Americans shouldn't send any more troops misses the main point which is, what will you do about Iraq if yo don't? The Baker report is a deeply depressing document, it is selfeshly about cutting and running in a post vietnam panic. The Iraqis deserve better than that, although reading some of the ill informed comments from Tory T and changetowin et al I wonder where they have been for the last few years. The Cons Party should have made a better fist of their response to Bush than hiding behind the Baker report. Whether you like it or not Iraq has become crucial to the terrorists. They are committed to returning the country to a theocracy mired in violence. Driving democracy out with the allies is the key. They Know that today it is Baghdad and after London. Hiding behind a precipitive troop withdrawel will not stop them.If only they could read this blog they would know how narrow and weak some Conservatives have become. If they are students of history they might nod knowingly to each other and recall that it was after all the Conservative Party which was pro appeasment.....then they might say; 'how quickly they have returned to their roots.'


Which enemies of democracy and apologists for Islamofacism Larry? Or is this just another of your dishonest facile comments?
Michael, Iraq will probably be partitioned with or without our help anyway.I don't think we should making it easier for the Iranians by handing it to them on a plate.Of the two I believe the Shia(and Iran) are more dangerous to our interests than the Sunnis.There are no easy answers but I do think withdrawal is the least worst option for us.
Words are cheap aren't they Gadfly? 'The Iraqis deserve better than that' Deserve better than what Gadfly? More than 600,000 deaths? More than 1,000,000 people driven from the country?We are doing a great job aren't we? Easy to take pot shots isn't it?Much harder to come up with anything constructive at all.

Malcolm, I agree that a withdrawal is in a limited sense the least worst option but the propaganda impact will be very negative. It will be trumpeted as a resounding defeat for the US and especially the West (cf Vietnam) but with much wider global implications, especially if it leads to McGovernite isolationism in the US - a real risk with serious implications for the UK and Israel.

I suspect that you are right about the inevitability of partition but if it happens without us, then it could be especially bloody; we will have no say over the outcome; and we will be blamed for the mess anyway (cf India and Pakistan where Mountbatten did indeed cut and run leaving such festering sores as Kashmir).


If they are students of history they might be aware that the oh so weak and naive Conservative "appeasers" (boo hiss) of the 1930's increased British military spending from 37.2 million in 1934 to 104.2 million in 1937 to 273.1 million in 1939. We had 5 aircraft carriers in 1934 and 15 by 1936. If we had acted sooner we could well have lost.

I would rather have Baldwin's appeasers than the current crop of grossly incompetent and self-righteous Neocons and liberal interventionists who have started an unnecessary war and then managed to lose it.

Either send enough extra troops (50,000+) or stop fannying about and withdraw.

Really, what is the Mr Micawber strategy of just hanging around in Iraq in the hope that something will turn up and magically make the place stable, supposed to achieve? And how on earth is it going to achieve it?

As regards the thread, we are entitled to our own views. If MCain is upset, hard luck! Personally I don't want a PM or future PM who has to check with the US before deciding what his/her veiw is. I don't remember Thatcher doing that! Whats more she gained respect as a result.

I agree with you Matt, but after Mr McCain was brought on with such a fanfare at the Bournemouth Conference - and presumably that was supposed to signify "future leaders working in harmony" or something of the sort - this latest turn of events can hardly be viewed in a positive light by the party.

David Cameron's problem is that in trying to be all things to all people he may ultimately alienate nearly everybody

I am sorry Jon, but it is only the benefit of hindsight which enables you to be so confident in your assertions about Baldwin's appeasers. It is true that they did belatedly increase defence spending a lot but:

1. If they had given France proper backing, Hitler would never have reoccupied the Rhineland or dismembered Czechoslovakia. They allowed Hitler to call their bluff because they were so poorly prepared.

2. It was a complete miracle that Hitler insisted on holding his tanks back at Dunkirk in the teeth of his generals' opposition, thereby allowing 350,000 British and French soldiers to escape. Even when they did, they had no equipment because stockpiles were so limited because of years of underspend. Ditto re the Battle of Britain where the Luftwaffe diverted its attention to nightime raids on cities just as the RAF was buckling because of lack of pilots and kit.

Of course its hindsight - but it is also hindsight that allows us to say cutting military spending in the 20's was stupid.

At that time Germany had just become a democracy and her military was restricted, the League of Nations had just been set up, everyone was bankrupt and tired of war. The Great Depression was thought to have been caused by too much govt spending, so they cut back on defence. Plus various other views about needing a strong Germany holding back the USSR.

My point was that the govt of the 30's was not the naive pacifist blind fools their reputation suggests but knew war was coming and rapidly built up Britain's armed forces. The longer peace could be maintained the more military we had.

And the longer peace could be maintained the more military Germany had. Especially when we gave them carte blanche to resume conscription and take over the top notch Czech arsenal and arms industry which then armed the Wehrmacht with barely a hitch for the next 7 years. Those were all disastrous errors made on the watch of Baldwin and Chamberlain who had been caught with their trousers down having run on a pacifist ticket in order to get elected.

In any case, you ignore Japan which long before the mid-1930's was an aggressive militarist state posing a direct threat to British economic interests....a threat to which the National Government responded by leaving the Singapore Naval Base half-built and the Royal Navy in no position to send a fleet to use it.

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