Brits leave Basra to its fate

Britain leaving Basra under a smokescreen.

The British Army has withdrawn its last troops from central Basra to the relative safety of the airport.

A Pentagon emissary, General Keane, and the International Crisis Group agree, from opposite perspectives, that Basra is in anarchy. Whitehall claims of course that it’s all part of a phased handover to the Iraqi army and government; though without troops in the streets the handover has already happened. Basra is now a real-life pilot for American withdrawal, a slice of Iraq without foreign troops. It will be a bloody mess until one faction comes out on top and imposes a modicum of order.

Gordon Brown has refused, in a letter to the Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, to set a withdrawal timetable. This was spun as pro-American. But the money quote is this:

Decisions on the ground will be made on the basis of advice from our military and other experts, taking fully into consideration the safety of our armed forces.


I will decide when we go, not tell anybody till it happens, and pretend the decision is based on local progress.

Is there any atrocity in the Basra streets that could reverse the British exit? Perhaps someone blowing up the oil terminal – but the Shia factions and gangsters fighting for control are very unlikely to kill this golden goose, with its conveniently broken meters.

Way back I predicted that British troops would be gone from Basra 6 months into Brown’s Premiership. It may be sooner.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web