Foreign Policy Blogs

British troops in Basra for the long term

After General Petraeus’ meeting at 10 Downing Street with Defense Secretary Des Browne and Sir Jock Stirrup (defense chief of staff), the general agreement was that the 4,000 strong British troop contingent would remain stationed outside of Basra for the time being. When asked about a specific time range the General replied, “The answer right now is we don't know … We need to work [it] out in the next month or two as we look at the so-called troop-to-task analysis.” This means that the intention of drawing down the contingent to 2,500 is out the window.

General Petraeus also took the opportunity to discuss Iranian arms flowing into Iraq again, in the Guardian's piece linked above. The U.S. military really seems to be taking the lead on this media offensive, with the last month having seen Secretary Gates, Major General Lynch, and Pentagon spokesperson Morrell among others, making statement after statement on the accusation. Even officials speaking on condition of anonymity never offer any hard proof, they simply continuously state the fact that weapons caches have been found bearing recent Iranian stamps/insignia. The military must show their smoking gun, because to the rest of the world, it sounds like a drumbeat towards war.

My fellow blogger Daniel Graeber has published his own piece on Basra titled “Analysis: A Hornet's Nest in Basra”. He points out that “the violence between rival…factions could shape the new threat environment.” He gives a great rundown of the recent history of Prime Minister Maliki's alliance with Sadr and the US’ support of the Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, who heads up the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Definitely a recommended read.