Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Progress" signaled by British troop withdrawals?!

President Bush lost no time in portraying Tony Blair's decision to begin a phased withdrawal of British troops from Basra as a "sign of progress" in Iraq. But people in the know across the pond have quite a different interpretation. Jonathan Steele comments in yesterday's Guardian,

"The task is made harder in Basra by the fact that the two main militias, the Badr organisation and the Mahdi army, are linked to different Islamist political parties that are vying for supremacy. The governor of Basra and the chairman of the provincial council have ties to one side, and the police chief to the other, while the police force beneath him is packed with men from both. They are engaged in a kind of civic civil war, a local struggle over who controls revenues, both legal and illegal - the most lucrative of which is the siphoning-off of Basra's oil."

What in the world can British troops do to influence events in this den of vipers? As another British journalist noted on yesterday's NPR "Talk of the Nation:" They can declare victory and get the heck out of there!


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