Tony Blair’s announcement that some British troops will be withdrawn from Iraq is a significant turning point, one of the most significant in terms of British policy since the 2003 invasion.
It is a tacit admission of the deep political damage that the government is suffering as a result of backing George Bush’s criminal assault on Iraq to the hilt.
It is a recognition that the anti-war movement in Britain and globally has won the arguments and majority support and has been able to mobilise vast swathes of society against the war.
The troops are not being pulled back because they have “finished the job” or “brought democracy to Iraq”. They are going because, as senior military figures have admitted, they are worsening the situation, not improving it.
But nobody should believe our struggle is over. The partial withdrawal plan could be slowed or reversed at any moment if Blair so chose. Some of the British troops will be redeployed to fight in Afghanistan.
And while British troop numbers fall by 1,500, an extra 21,500 US soldiers are arriving in Iraq to bring more blood and terror.
There are also fears that the partial British withdrawal may be a step towards clearing the way for an assault on Iran. If such an attack took place the British forces in southern Iraq would be targets for a Shia uprising.
The Stop the War Coalition says, “650,000 (and counting) Iraqi deaths later, with 130 British troops dead, with British military bases around Basra under daily attack, with Iraq in meltdown and with thousands fleeing the country every day, Blair is, not for the first time, announcing a gradual withdrawal of UK forces because of their 'success'.
“Of over 7,000 British troops, 1,500 will leave in May, more at the end of the year.
“Blair is again playing fast and loose with the British public since Whitehall sources have told the BBC the process could be slowed down if the situation in Iraq worsens.
“Since Blair's political master, US President Bush is busy escalating the US presence in Iraq and threatening to spread the war to Iran British troops are unlikely to depart from Iraq anytime soon.
“Under these circumstances it is vital for the anti-war movement to be on the streets of London on Saturday so that British withdrawal from Iraq becomes a reality.”
Respect MP George Galloway says, 'The timing of Blair’s statement is interesting, coming just days before the big Stop the War demonstration on Saturday.
“But it is a smokescreen. British troops are being diverted to the disaster in Afghanistan whilst Bush is building up US troop numbers in Iraq. And Blair is supporting Bush's sabre rattling against Iran wholeheartedly.
“We all know we can't trust Blair one inch. For all our sakes, but especially for the sake of the Iraqis, now is the time to redouble our efforts to get all the troops out now.'
The Stop the War demonstrations in London and Glasgow this weekend are even more vital after Blair’s announcement.
Everyone must step up their efforts to get all the troops out now.
Troops out | No Trident replacement
Saturday 24 February
London 12 noon, Hyde Park
Glasgow 11.30am, George Square
Go to www.stopwar.org.uk