Saturday, September 01, 2007

Britain fights back US criticisms on our handling of Southern Iraq

In recent weeks, the Americans, upset that we are intent on pulling out of Iraq, have been rubbishing us, with anonymous US generals talking about "Who lost Basra?" One senior US intelligence man said anonymously that 'The British have basically been defeated in the south' and another that if there are further British withdrawals 'the situation will continue to deteriorate'.

All of which is infuriating to the British. For a start we didn't have much say in the strategy for Iraq war and post-war situation. Bremner disbanded the Iraqi army without consulting us, and when we advised that Abu Ghraib be shut down in April 2003, the Americans ignored our advice, with disastrous consequences.

The American criticism is a classic Bush/Cheney operation - accuse the opposition of failure and/or cowardice to make them back down - in this case they are trying to pressure Britain not to continue withdrawals from Iraq.

It might have worked with Blair, who refused to criticise publicly or allow anyone from his administration to criticise publicly. But the Brown administration is different from the Blair one. Yesterday, David Miliband and Des Browne wrote an article in the Washington Post, refuting the American allegations and saying "It's time to set the record straight".

We have also had General Sir Mike Jackson saying "I don't think that's a fair assessment" to American allegations of "deterioration" in Basra. He also said that the Americans were "intellectually bankrupt" over their Iraqi strategy.

It looks like this public refutation of the allegations is having an effect. Bush has now said that he is "fine" about the handover to Iraqi forces in Basra. I guess he realised that having Brits hit back at him publicly was more damaging to him than having them leave Basra.

The text of the Miliband/Browne article is interesting. It concludes:

We believe we remain on track to complete the return of full sovereignty to the Iraqi people as planned.

.........But while outsiders can support, advise and encourage, only Iraqi leaders can make the political decisions and compromises essential to the future of their country.

.........We urge Iraq's political leaders to take the necessary steps.

To me that sounds like a clear sign that Britain is going to continue to handover and continue to withdraw no matter what the Americans say.

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