There is an inevitability about Tony Blair’s announcement of a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The Prime Minister has said the 7,100 serving troops would be cut to 5,500 as soon as practical, with hopes that 500 more will leave by late summer.

He also stressed, however, that some soldiers, stationed at Basra air base, would remain into 2008 “to help secure supply routes, the Iran border and to support Iraqis”.

Although far from a wholesale draw-down of our forces, it is still a highly significant moment. Less newsworthy, perhaps, but still important is the decision of Denmark to withdraw all its forces by August – the 460-strong presence will leave, although a unit of 50 will remain in an observational role.

Both decisions come as the US prepares to send out an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

Is this an indication of the differing approaches now being adopted by Mr Blair and President George W Bush?

Both are coming to the end of a decidedly chequered spell as leader of their respective countries – arguably both started well but the longer they stayed in office the more shaky they have looked.

Now both are keen to ensure at least a few positive chapters in the history books and Mr Bush is, literally in the case of Iraq, going on the offensive.

Mr Blair, on the other hand, is adopting an increasingly conciliatory approach – at least when compared to the last 4 or 5 years – and is trying hard to regain the “people’s Prime Minister” mantle he so enthusiastically paraded for the first half of his time in Downing Street. 

So what are the chances of either strategy working?

Pretty remote, I would suggest.

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