Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Road to Baghdad

The pharmacy at Amman's Hotel Intercontinental stocks almost nothing but anti-depressants. Dwarfing a handful of sunblocks and shampoos are shelves packed with Prozac and Zoloft.

"It's for the people coming out of Iraq," explains the pharmacist. "They just see things they've never seen before - they ask for these things."

It is almost four years since I was last in Jordan. Then I was getting out of Iraq after months reporting the build-up and onset of the war.

Now, Amman is groaning under a population boom. In the last 18 months, two million Iraqis have fled their country. They are disproportionately Iraq's educated and middle classes, who now eke out a wretched existence in Syria and here in Jordan.

The young man brewing me a glass of tea near Amman's two thousand year old Roman amphitheatre is one such refugee. When I tell him I am going to Iraq tomorrow, he laughs with astonishment.

"No, no - don't go!" he says. He shakes his head good-naturedly, and draws a finger across his throat.

But it is an intriguing time to be in Iraq. President Bush's "surge" is underway. The deployment of an extra five brigades to try to bring security to Baghdad will peak in late May. Even John McCain, the Presidential candidate with the strongest enthusiasm for America's presence in Iraq, admits if the "surge' doesn't work, there is no Plan B.

For now, perhaps for the last time, there are more American boots arriving in Iraq than leaving. For the US, it's the last throw of the dice.

-- From Hugh Riminton, CNN International Anchor/Correspondent

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