Thursday, September 22, 2005

UK exiting Iraq?

The dramatic events in Basra highlight the need for serious public analysis and debate about ways forward in Iraq - as more people begin to consider British presence unsustainable.

William Shawcross and Simon Jenkins on Newsnight on 21 Sep were marginally more useful than Galloway and Hitchens last week. It was striking how emphatic General Sir Michael Rose was on the same programme about the need to set a date to get out (and sticking to it).

Anne Clywd, currently Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq, is an honourable person (Hitchens said last week that she has no memory of Galloway's presence among those championing the Kurdish cause when they most had need of friends in the 1980s), but her line about the "excellent" elections in Basra earlier this summer and the need to be patient looks less plausible as the extent of corruption and conflict become ever clearer.

I would like to understand more about how the various Shi'ia factions are lining up, and where this could lead. How far can Muqtadr al-Sadr and his allies go, and where will reported clashes with the Badr brigades, which are said to be both backed by Iran and loyal to the Baghdad government, go? Any pointers to more sound analysis welcome.

Quite robust, I think, was Donald Philips [?], formerly with the State Deparment [?] and now at Harvard University[?]. He told The World Tonight on 21 Sep that while every effort must be made to support the political process and reconstruction, it would be untenable to leave thousands of western troops in the crossfire of a full blown civil war. The best option was likely to be for western forces to withdraw north of the 35th parrallel and protect a Kurdish state as the "frontline in the forward march of freedom". Ho ho.

(Some insight comes from Peter Galbraith, previously noted here, and for an account of one serious attempt to grapple with the dilemmas see Confessions of a Humvee Liberal)

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