This week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he would reduce British presence in Iraq from 5,500 troops to 4,500 by Christmas. The Guardian reports today that Brown will cut “significantly more than the 1,000 announced yesterday” by next year.
In response to the withdrawal announcement, the White House has decided to slander Britain. The Daily Telegraph reports today that a senior White House official has revoked Britain’s status of being “the closest Bush ally“:
“There’s concern about Brown,” a senior White House foreign policy official told The Daily Telegraph. “But this is compensated by the fact that Paris and Berlin are much less of a headache. The need to hinge everything on London as the guarantor of European security has gone.”
The White House official added that Britain would always be “the cornerstone” of US policy towards Europe but there was “a lot of unhappiness” about how British forces had performed in Basra and an acceptance that Mr Brown would pull the remaining 4,500 troops out of Iraq next year.
“Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra,” said the official. “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.”
When Britain’s future in Iraq was up for debate, however, the White House showered praise on the new Prime Minister. “I found a person who shares [my] vision and who understands the call,” President Bush said of Gordon Brown in July. “You’ve proved your worthiness as a leader, and I thank you for that.”
The White House has also praised the work of British troops. “[T]hey had made progress in southern Iraq,” said Vice President Cheney in February.
A British diplomatic source elaborated on Bush’s new distance from Britain. “In the White House there’s a sense of enormous change from Blair. They used to be on the phone to Blair all the time and that’s no longer the case because Brown clearly wants to be the unBlair,” the source said.