President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq to
show support for the al-Maliki government [AFP]

British troops have withdrawn from their last garrison in Basra, leaving the country's second biggest city largely in the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia.

On the same day, George Bush,the US president, stopped over on a surprise visit to Iraq just a day ahead of the release of a bleak report to congress that says the Iraqi government is failing to reach most of the benchmarks it was set at the time of the US troop 'surge' earlier this year.

These comings and goings once more highlight the difficult circumstances and precarious choices faced by the American and British governments over Iraq. 

The timing of Bush's meeting this week with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, was unmistakable: to downplay the impact of the British withdrawal and to show support for the al-Maliki government that has been increasingly under fire for failing to manage the warring political factions in Iraq.       

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog, concluded that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks set to judge the Iraqi government's performance in the political and security arenas have not been met.

Sticking to its guns, the White House is arguing that the troop 'surge' is working and that any large-scale withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would yield disastrous results.

All this comes in the run-up to the eagerly awaited report from US General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, next week about US strategy in Iraq.

Inside Iraq looks into the significance of the GAO report and the British pullback.

Our guests this week are, from left to right:
Jeremy Corbyn, a British member of parliament, Brad Blakeman, a former senior advisor to President Bush, and Dr Saad Jawad Kindil, a member of the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council.

Watch this episode of Inside Iraq here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

This episode of Inside Iraq aired from 7th September 2007

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