The Bailey Mail
March 19, 2008
Just six months after the small garrison of British troops withdrew from the centre of Basra to the heavily fortified base at the airport, largely because Basra ministers were spouting that their presence was making things worse, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari said British troops are “doing nothing” to stop the havoc in Basra.
Zebari told channel 4 news that foreign troops should stay engaged to have any hope that the country could see stability after the “rivers of blood.”
The last 550 troops remaining in central Basra withdrew on September 3 last year, and the situation has been pretty calm in Basra ever since, but the situation has worsened lately. In Zebari’s words: “the militia, the organised crime, is actually making havoc in the city.”
Zebari was asked if British troops needed to re-engage in the city:
“In my view they do. They should not just sit there and do nothing. There are certain responsibilities, especially at least until the end of this year.”
In defence of the British forces, Iraq commanders and security forces will never be able to do the job until they are left to do the job, sometimes the best way of learning is to be flung in at the deep end. In my view British troops will be closely watching the situation, and will re-enter only when they are sure it is necessary — perhaps they have more faith in Iraqi forces than Zebari; they did train them after all.
When all is said and done, there is not a great deal British forces can do against the militia’s, unless they all come out at once for a conventional lined battle, in which case the British troops would win, when it comes to the unconventional, insurgent warfare, militia men hidden as part of the civilian population: British forces have no chance.
That type of war will not be a short one, certainly not over by the end of year, and best won over the long-term by the Iraqi forces themselves who should be better able to gather good intelligence on the militia members. But then it comes down to whether the Iraqi forces can be trusted, with mentions of militia loyalties within the forces, in which case it comes down to the only people who can help the Iraqi situation are the Iraqi’s themselves; by turning from their militia loyalties for the good of the country.
As for organised crime, it definitely cannot be stopped by British forces, who occupied Northern Ireland for decades and organised crime is still rife there. Organised crime is a problem around the world, and not beaten by military might, but by concentrated police campaigns against it, again a battle for the long haul.
Instead of aiming his furore at the British forces, Zebari should be concentrating on trying to make good on their claims that the British were making things worse. His call to bring British troops back in will be a sign of weakness to the Militia’s, a call to intensify action, and also a motion of no faith in the Iraqi security forces, which is sure to lower morale and make militia loyalties deepen.