Coalition Politics: What Price Loyalty; as America Debates Its Future in Iraq, U.S. Allies Face an Awkward Question. How Long Do They Keep Their Forces In?

By Underhill, William | Newsweek International, December 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

Coalition Politics: What Price Loyalty; as America Debates Its Future in Iraq, U.S. Allies Face an Awkward Question. How Long Do They Keep Their Forces In?


Underhill, William, Newsweek International


Byline: William Underhill (With Barbie Nadeau in Rome and Kasia Gruszkowska in London)

Tony Blair knows all about loyalty. Without complaint, the British prime minister has taken years of flak for supporting the U.S. on Iraq. In the last month alone he's been tarred as George W. Bush's willing patsy in a gossipy tell-all penned by his former ambassador to Washington. He ignited a media uproar by slapping a gag on a leaked report suggesting he talked the president out of bombing the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera. And he's steadfastly echoed the American line on any early withdrawal from Iraq. Smaller Coalition partners may back out, but not the British. "We withdraw when the job is done."

That makes the next test still harder. The rising clamor in America to draw down U.S. forces demonstrates the chasmwide difference between the pressures on Washington and its principal allies. Bush is only now hearing the kind of all-party dissent that Blair and others have managed to endure--and often face down--over the last three years. "It's a paradox," says Menzies Campbell, foreign-affairs spokesman of the Liberal Democrats, the only major British party that opposed the war. "As the debate warms up in the United States, it's almost flattened out over here." So far the British casualty tally in Iraq stands at 98--high, but not high enough to inflame opinion. One recent poll showed 51 percent favoring a timetable for British withdrawal, with 41 percent believing that the troops had a duty to remain until the situation improved. "We could stay for several years," says Glen Rangwala at Cambridge University. "But we are not seeing the same staying power on the part of the United States. …

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