Excerpts from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s remarks Wednesday to Parliament on
“There can be no debate about the rights and wrongs of what is happening in Iraq today. The desire for democracy is good. The attempt to destroy it through terrorism is evil. Unfortunately, that’s not the question. The question is not should we, but can we defeat this evil? Do we have a plan to succeed?
“Since the outset, our plan, agreed by Iraq and the U.N., 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.”
“In normal circumstances, the progress would be considered remarkable. … But these are not normal circumstances. The Iraqi forces have often proved valiant. But the various forces against them have also redoubled their efforts. In particular in and around Baghdad, where 80-90 percent of the violence is centered, they have engaged in a systematic attempt to bring the city to chaos. It is the capital of Iraq. Its strategic importance is fundamental. There has been an orgy of terrorism unleashed upon it in order to crush any possibility of it functioning.
“It doesn’t much matter if elsewhere in Iraq — not least in Basra — change is happening. If Baghdad cannot be secured, the future of the country is in peril. The enemies of Iraq understand that. We understand it.”
“There can be only one purpose in Iraq: to support the government and people of the country to attain the necessary capability to run their own affairs as a sovereign, independent state.”
“The actual reduction in forces (in Basra) will be from the present 7,100 — itself down from over 9,000 two years ago and 40,000 at the time of the conflict — to roughly 5,500. … Over time and depending naturally on progress and the capability of the (Iraq security forces), we will be able to draw down further, possibly to below 5,000 once the Basra Palace site has been transferred to the Iraqis in late summer. … The U.K. military presence will continue into 2008 for as long as we are wanted and have a job to do.”
“The speed at which this happens depends, of course, in part on what we do, what the Iraqi authorities themselves do; but also on the attitude of those we are, together, fighting. Their claim to be fighting for the liberation of their country is a palpable lie. They know perfectly well that if they stopped the terror, agreed to let the U.N. democratic process work and allowed the natural talent and wealth of the country to emerge, Iraq would prosper. We would be able to leave. It is precisely their intent to eliminate such a possibility.”