UK papers: Blair's successor expected to accelerate pullout from Iraq

And in so doing, he’ll speed the disintegration of Basra while giving Democrats more leverage to force an American pullout.

[Bush] has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister’s popularity in the opinion polls…

One senior official said: “There is a sense of foreboding. We don’t know if he will be there when we need him. We expect a gesture that will greatly weaken the United States government’s position.”…

President Bush’s aides fear that Mr Brown will boost Democrats’ demands for a timetable for a US pullout from Iraq and encourage wavering Republicans to defect – leaving the President more isolated.

Brown’s people are denying it but John Kerry thinks Brown will at least be good for a compromise that would cut off funding if the Iraqi government doesn’t meet its benchmarks.

The Times of London also expects British forces to be scaled down to a “token force,” with predictable consequences if a U.S. withdrawal follows:

Baghdad will become an open battleground between Shia and Sunni fighters with civilians the hardest hit. The weak central government would probably fracture, the police force defect en masse to the militias and the fledgeling army face collapse.

Iraqi political groups are already anticipating the move. “If the Americans left we would probably take over Baghdad in a month,” predicted one senior member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the two main Shia groups. “Saddam managed to put down the Shia uprising in 1991 in a month. If we use the same tactics we will get the same results.

Given the fact that Bush only has until September to show results, “nothing short of divine intervention could deliver a victory in that short period,” declares the Times.