What’s the fall-out from the Army Head’s Daily Mail interview?
This morning’s dramatic comments in the Daily Mail by General Sir Richard Dannatt, that Britain must withdraw from Iraq “soon” or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society must be the biggest public split between the head of the Army and the Government in generations.
For they run right across Tony Blair’s flagship foreign policy and bring onto the agenda again an issue that has caused so much damage to him and his party.
The statement that the continuing military presence in Iraq was jeopardising British security and interests around the world is in almost direct opposition to what ministers have been arguing every since Tony Blair committed the UK to join George Bush in March 2003.
Does the fact that Dannatt feels able to go public with such thoughts underline Tony Blair’s declining authority and might it hasten the departure? At least the next PMQs is not for another five days.
For the defining action of Blair’s period in office has been Iraq and he still continues to argue passionately that he was right and that the UK should go on being there. Dannatt’s view that “we should get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems” is going to be hard for the Downing Street spinners to square.
It also provides a peg for David Cameron to attack Labour and might put the focus on Gordon Brown’s position during the early months of 2003.
Iraq has been a constant negative for Labour in the polls for two and a half years and the daily death toll there has been a regular reminder of Blair’s original decision.
There had been suggestions that one of the first acts of Prime Minister Brown would be to order a withdrawal. The problem with today’s statement is that any political benefit that might accrue will be lessened.
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