The AP (via The Guardian) looks at the truth behind the Bush-Blair spin:
The British have faced problems recently in the south. Since January 2005, Basra and Maysan provinces have both fallen under the sway of Shiite militias, which have resisted British efforts to uproot them. Relations with the Basra provincial government have also deteriorated.Indeed, it appears to me that, no matter what is accomplished by the current "surge" in Bahgdad, as soon as the surge is over Sunnia and Shiite will fall upon one another once more. The signals to do so will come from the very top of the Iraqi government which the coalition has installed and protected.
Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said though the British and American strategies appear to be opposite, they will achieve the same end: a consolidation of Shiite power in Iraq.
The British have already acquiesced to a ``situation of quiet sectarian cleansing'' in the south, and their decision to pull out of Basra simply marks ``acceptance of a political reality'' of Shiite control in the region. He noted, for instance, that southeastern Iraq has been ``a no-go zone'' for some time.
``If the Shiites continue to stand down (in Baghdad), the U.S. is fighting the Sunni insurgents for them,'' he said, further cementing Shiite control of the country.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of "Sabreen al-Janabi", which has created a massive sectarian upswell of opinion in Iraq. Claim and counterclaim are entirely being fuelled by factionism rather than any search for the truth.
Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office took the controversial step of releasing a private medical report on the treatment that the 20-year-old woman received on Sunday at a U.S. hospital in Baghdad which found no signs of an assault.Petraeus must by now have figured out that Maliki intends using his surge as cover for even more ethnic cleansing and entrenchment of Shiite dominance. But in the South, where the Iraqi regime doesn't have to worry about Sunni insurgent attacks, they are happy to see the British go. It will give them a free hand, after all. Thus come Maliki's insistence on crushing the Sunni insurgency with every power available while Shiite militias lay low and wait out the storm. Thus also come such moves as the sacking of the Sunni official Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, who oversaw the Sunni Endowment, a government agency that oversees Sunni mosques.
The U.S. military distanced itself from the move, saying the hospital had not provided a report to the government.
In a sign of how seriously it viewed the affair, U.S. military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell said the top American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, had ordered an investigation into her treatment.
...Maliki's office has reacted vigorously to the allegations since they surfaced on Monday, holding a swift inquiry that not only absolved the accused police officers of any blame but commended them, a move that outraged many Sunnis.
The Kurds have certainly figured out what Maliki's game is, and are willing to take unusual steps to say so:
A Kurdish news agency published a letter Wednesday purporting to be from Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki in which he advised Shiite Muslim militia commanders to leave Iraq to avoid being detained or killed by US troops.Well, yes, it's a forgery. Maliki isn't that dumb. But what is significant is that Kurdish powerbrokers are already laying the foundation for resistance to Shiite dominance in their media. That doesn't bode well for long-term stability - but instead indicates the potential for a three-way civil war.
Peyamner news agency, a Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) affiliate, published the letter from January 14 which was allegedly sent to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq and the office of the al-Sadr Shiite militia.
The letter advised frontline commanders of the Mahdi army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr linked to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards to leave for Iran while second-line commanders were told to hide in provinces in southern Iraq.
However, a US embassy spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the Iraqi government had announced the letter was forged.
"We cannot comment on the letter as long as the Iraqi government denied it," the spokesman said.
It is against this backdrop that the British pullout - and any temporary success the surge might enjoy - should be viewed. South Korea and Poland, the next two largest contingents, have also indicated their intention to get out of the quagmire by the end of this year. So has Denmark.
Today in the UK, it was left to British opposition Liberal Democrat Party leader Menzies Campbell to explain what will soon be left entirely to America to deal with. Far from what Blair once promised would be a ``beacon of democracy'' before the UK pulled out, it will be:
a country on the brink of civil war, where reconstruction has stalled, where corruption is endemic and a region which is a lot less stable than it was in 2003,''And, I would add, where the current majority Shiite government, protected by the aid of both the US and Iran, has little if any incentive to change that until after the chaos has enabled it to consolidate power as a new dictatorship over Iraq's minorities.
Postscript: Remember 2004, when Paul Bremmer, the US viceroy in Baghdad, insisted the country was 'fundamentally changed for the better' by the occupation?
Update Pro-war British columnist Michael O'Hanlon points out what is obvious to all except the Kool-Aid drinkers. If the British pull out was really due to their success in the South of Iraq, rather than Blair's acceptance of British anti-war sentiment, then the UK troops would be sticking around to help out with the "surge" in Baghdad.
what the overall Iraq mission really needs is more troops in and around Baghdad - the city that Tony Blair has just rightly said is crucial to the whole country's well-being. The United Statess decision to add more than 17,000 troops to Baghdad, consistent with the counterinsurgency strategy favored by General David Petraeus, was determined by available American force levels. It is not an adequate number. As such, US troops could certainly use help from NATO's most accomplished military in counterinsurgency and stabilization missions - the UK armed forces. And while British forces are certainly strained in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, their proportional contribution to key allied military missions (adjusting for the two countries' relative populations) is less than half that of the United States. Clearly, the main reason British troops are going home rather than to Baghdad has more to do with British domestic politics than any military or strategic rationale. While understandable, that is also too bad, given what it means for the burden faced by American troops - and the still-mediocre prospects for success of the overall mission in Iraq.Yup. It's amazing how many people cannot work it out, though.
This news will not be welcome in the United States, and will not help President Bush - despite what his administration is saying.