Jack Straw: “We are part of the problem”

Some fairly amazing words of self-evident truth from Jack Straw, which it is impossible to imagine issuing forth from any figure in the US administration. But a consensus appears to be emerging on both sides of the Atlantic that there will be big troop reductions after the new constitution takes effect next year. Is this just intended for public consumption or do they mean it? And will there be a significant escalation of violence before the new constitution is worked out? Via TruthOut:

US-Led Troops in Iraq Part of Problem – UK’s Straw
02 August 2005

London – The presence of British and U.S. troops in Iraq is fuelling the Sunni-led insurgency which has killed hundreds of people, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in comments published on Tuesday. In an interview with Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, Straw said it was crucial Iraq’s draft constitution was ready by a mid-August deadline to pave the way for a troop withdrawal.

“The more certainty you have on that (the constitution), the more you can have a programme for the draw-down of troops which is important for the Iraqis,” he said. “Because — unlike in Afghanistan — although we are part of the security solution there, we are also part of the problem.”

The Iraqi panel drawing up the constitution has come under intense U.S. pressure to submit a draft on time. The Iraqi government and its U.S. backers see the constitution as a key part of any democratic process and hope it can help defuse the two-year-old insurgency and allow U.S. and British troops to withdraw sooner.

U.S. General George Casey said last month he expected troop cuts after a referendum on a new constitution due in October and an election for a new leader in December. Casey made a similar prediction earlier this year, but U.S. officials have avoided suggesting a timetable since violence worsened sharply after the new government took power in April.

Britain, Washington’s main ally in the 2003 war to topple former President Saddam Hussein, has about 8,500 troops in Iraq, based mainly in the south.

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Meanwhile in Iraq today…
    Also via TruthOut:

    Seven Marines Die in Two Iraq Attacks
    Tuesday 02 August 2005

    Baghdad – Seven U.S. Marines died Monday in two incidents north of Baghdad, the military said Tuesday. According to military news releases, six Marines died in combat near Haditha, about 135 miles (217 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. Another Marine died in a suicide car bombing near Hit, 95 miles (152 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad.

    All seven were assigned to Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. The deaths brought the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 1,800, according to military reports.

    US Convoy Hit

    A suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad on Tuesday, wounding 29 people, Iraqi police said. Police said the attacker struck as the convoy traveled though an underpass beneath al-Tahrir Square. Fifteen vehicles were destroyed. Police said they found the remains of the suicide bomber.

    In Baquba, meanwhile, police said gunmen on Tuesday killed a Diyala province Health Ministry official and his driver near Diyala Medical College. Dr. Abdul Hassan Mehdi was director of Khalis General Hospital in the town of Khalis, police said.

    Also in Baquba on Tuesday, a bomb attack on an Iraqi police convoy killed a police officer and a child, police said. Seven police and a civilian were wounded in the blast. Baquba is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

    Constitution on Track

    A committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution has decided against requesting a six-month extension of its August 15 deadline, its chairman told Iraq’s transitional National Assembly on Monday.

    Officials had until Monday to request the deadline extension.

    The constitution is to be handed to the National Assembly by August 15. It then faces approval before moving onto to a public referendum in October.

    If the constitution passes, elections for a new parliament must occur by mid-December with a new government in place by the end of 2005.

    Other developments:

    * Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District holds a special election Tuesday pitting Democratic Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, a critic of President Bush, against Republican Jean Schmidt. If successful, Hackett would be the first Iraq war combat veteran elected to Congress.

    * Fifteen bodies were found in the area of Um Al Ma’alif near Baya’a in southwestern Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi police said. Witnesses told police that men in a blue minivan pulled over to the side of the road and dumped the bodies. Some of the bodies had been beheaded.