"U.S. not winning the war in Iraq"

Robert Gates  

Julian Borger

Panel approves Robert Gates' nomination

Washington: The man picked by President George Bush to run the Pentagon admitted on Tuesday that the U.S. was not winning the war in Iraq and warned that an attack on Iran could backfire with devastating consequences.

Robert M. Gates won unanimous approval from the Senate Armed Services Committee after testifying that the United States was not winning in Iraq and that American failure there could ignite ``a regional conflagration'' in West Asia.

Mr. Gates's sombre and candid assessment stunned Congress, marking a sharp break with his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who played down the severity of any problems, was dismissive of criticism and took a much harder line against Iraq's neighbours.

The change in tone came at a critical moment, with the U.S. at a crossroads following the Democratic election victory, the resignations of two leading administration hawks, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, and at a time when Washington is in the midst of a fundamental rethink of military strategy.

Mr Gates made it clear that ``all options are on the table''. When asked if he believed the U.S. was winning, he replied flatly: ``No, sir.''

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006