Barack Obama, speech to the Chicago Council, 20 November 2006: Only through this phased redeployment can we send a clear message to the Iraqi factions that the U.S. is not going to hold together this country indefinitely — that it will be up to them to form a viable government that can effectively run and secure Iraq … The time for waiting in Iraq is over. It is time to change our policy. It is time to give Iraqis their country back. And it is time to refocus America’s efforts on the wider struggle yet to be won.

Barack Obama, press release, 30 January 2007: Our troops have performed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war. That’s why I have introduced a plan to not only stop the escalation of this war, but begin a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence.

Tony Blair announcing the British troop withdrawal to British parliament yesterday: Since the outset our plan, agreed by Iraq and the UN, has been to build up Iraqi capability in order to let them take control of their own destiny. As they would step up, we would, increasingly, step back … What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be. But it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis … Over time and depending naturally on progress and the capability of the ISF, we will be able to draw down further…

John Howard to parliament, 14 February 2007: If participant governments in the coalition start nominating dates by which forces are going to be withdrawn, what they are doing is inviting our enemies, inviting the terrorists in Iraq, to persist with the destabilisation and the mayhem and the bloodshed in the certain knowledge that ultimately the nerve will be lost and ultimately a withdrawal will take place.

John Howard, 20 February 2007: Speaking for Australia and speaking to Australia’s interests, I do not want to see a precipitate coalition withdrawal because that would plunge the country into much greater bloodshed.

John Howard, yesterday: A reduction has been in the wind and the reason I understand Mr Blair will give is that conditions have stabilised in Basra. I don’t think it follows that there should be a reduction in our 550. I mean you have got to maintain a critical mass.

Peter Fray

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