Patrick Cockburn provides a good analysis of what is happening in Basra as Tony Blair decides it is time for the British to withdraw:
The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq. In a comment entitled “The British Defeat in Iraq” the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005. Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that “did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighbourhood level when British troops were not present”. As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the so-called “Sadrist” factions.
Dick Cheney has called the decision of Tony Blair a sign of success in Iraq. When asked by a reporter the following
Mr. Vice President, you’ve said that the British draw-down from Iraq reflects their success there and not domestic considerations. Did the United States ask for them to redeploy those troops inside Iraq to take some strain off the U.S. forces involved in the Baghdad Security Plan and in al Anbar province? And if not, why not?
The Vice President does his usual bob, weave, tilt his head, babble on, and basically duck the question. I don’t blame him given this:
Vice President Cheney today repeated his charge that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s approach toward the Iraq war would benefit al-Qaeda, saying that he was not trying to impugn the speaker’s patriotism but instead hold her accountable for the consequences of her policies. Continuing a feud that broke out earlier in the week, Cheney said that Democratic proposals to restrict some Iraq war funding – what he dubbed the “Pelosi policy” – would amount to a broad validation of al-Qaeda efforts to undermine America’s will to fight.
Blair is implementing the UK version of the Pelosi plan. When Blair does this, it is a sign of success. When a Democrat proposes the US version, it is a “validation of al-Qaeda efforts”. OK, this is old news – Cheney is a hypocrite.