EARLIER this week the Iraqi parliament (yes, it still exists) voted to take powers to call on the government to bring the United States and British presence in Iraq to a close by the end of this year. At about the same time the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, gave an interview to The Times in Baghdad in which he urged Gordon Brown to resist calls to leave Iraq, saying that “Any sign of weakness by the new Prime Minister would fuel the insurgency in Iraq.” Which view of the need for the coalition forces is likely to prevail?

And what about the possibility, recently floated by a senior US general, that America might remain in Iraq for 50 years in secure bases along the lines of the arrangement in South Korea?

There's no doubt that in the United States and Britain public pressure is pushing for withdrawal as soon as possible and for the drawing up of a schedule to guarantee that there will be no slippage.

Equally, most government opinion in Iraq is for a continuing presence and, if necessary, a renewal of the UN resolution that mandates the coalition presence when the existing resolution expires at the end of this year. But surely the moral consideration that Britain and the United States made this mess and should stay, either until it is cleaned up or the Iraqi government asks us to go, should be the overriding factor in making the decision?


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