MORE ON IRAQ….I’m still trying to figure out what George Bush’s real intentions are in Iraq. Here’s one more data point, this time from the Guardian:

President George Bush and Tony Blair have agreed an exit strategy for pulling out of Iraq….British officials told The Observer that, although the occupation of Iraq would officially be over next year, it was likely that troops would need to stay, possibly until 2006.

….It is the first time Downing Street has spoken of the end of the occupation and marks a significant shift in the ‘acceleration’ process of handing Iraq back to the Iraqis.

….[Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw admitted that the security situation in Iraq had deteriorated and that it was time to look again at the way the military operation was being run.

‘It has plainly got worse in the last six weeks,’ he told The Observer. ‘What we now have to do is get on top of it. In the Sunni triangle area [around Baghdad] it has been more difficult than we thought it would be. First we have to recognise that that is the case and upgrade the military response, and also understand that creating a better [political] climate is better for us and worse for terrorism.’

It’s hard to draw any real conclusions from this, but saying it’s “likely” that troops would stay, “possibly” until 2006, seems rather less certain than what we’ve heard in the past.

And for what it’s worth, it’s refreshing to hear someone acknowledge that things have “plainly got worse” and the first step is to recognize this. I wish there were some American officials willing to admit the obvious.