After Bush's midterm defeat, what now for Iraq?

As George Bush digests his electoral defeat, he is forced to examine fresh options to tackle the disastrous consequences of war
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Indy Politics

Increase troops

Pour in troops to boost the 152,000 US soldiers struggling to quell the insurgency and halt sectarian bloodshed

Pros: US-backed Iraqi government would be comforted in fight against insurgents. Influential Republicans, including Senator John McCain, have called for 20,000 extra troops, with possible military support. Could be a tactical benefit

Cons: Creates more problems than it solves as the US troops are perceived as an occupying force by Iraqis. Move would be deeply unpopular in the US, where the high cost of war - with almost 3,000 dead - has revived memories of the Vietnam quagmire. After the anti war message of the congressional vote, sending more troops would be a reckless gamble

Where they stand?

Bush may agree but Democrats and Britain likely to oppose

Likely Outcome 2/10

Cut and Run

Head for the exit before the insurgents notice and hope that the Iraqi security forces the US and UK have trained stay loyal to the Baghdad government

Pros: Would minimise military losses and give the US administration and the British Government breathing space before the next election. Would reduce credibility of insurgent groups currently drawing widespread popular support for their fight to oust an 'occupying army'

Cons: Insurgents and militants scenting victory would redouble attacks on US-backed government leading to outright civil war and break up of Iraq. US forces would face humiliation of retreating under fire. Pull-out would also play badly with public opinion confused as to why US-led coalition is abandoning Iraqis without anything to show for it

Where they stand?

All agree this is not a serious option, but it is popular with voters

Likely Outcome 2/10

Phased withdrawal

Staged withdrawal, allowing for an orderly drawdown of troops over a period of 18 months or so. Forces would rotate out of Iraq after finishing a tour of duty and not return

Pros: The most orderly way to leave Iraq, would allow Bush and Blair to say the troops will pull out 'when the job is done'. Would keep boots on the ground to combat the insurgents. Could be agreed with neighbouring countries such as Iran and Syria

Cons: Insurgents could step up attacks if timetable is announced in advance. The tasks explicitly linked by Bush and Blair to a pull-out include the training of Iraqi security forces which is still far off and unlikely to be completed soon

Where they stand?

Everyone's favoured approach with the only disagreements concerning the timetable

Likely Outcome 9/10

Stay indefinitely

Open-ended commitment to keep military forces in Iraq whatever the human and financial cost in the face of an increasingly effective and growing insurgency

Pros: Strategic advantage of having military bases to protect oilwells if needed. Would reassure those concerned over increasing role of neighbouring Iran government. An outside possibility that Iraqi insurgents might take fright

Cons: The Iraqi government would never be able to shed the image of being a stooge of Bush and Blair. Would tie up US and British troops in a quagmire with no likelihood of success when they could be better used elsewhere. Insurgents could return to striking American military targets as a priority

Where they stand?

Bush and Democrats could never agree this option, and it would become mired in US presidential election politics

Likely Outcome 3/10