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Breaking: Brits, Japs and Aussies to cut and run from Iraq?

By Gavin Gatenby, Possum News Network
16 June 2006

Today, the Japanese agency Kyodo News reported that “British, Australian and Japanese troops will transfer security responsibilities in southern Iraq to Iraqi authorities next week, and withdraw from the area soon afterward”.

Citing anonymous Coalition sources the agency report indicated that, following a meeting of the three countries in London last week, a rapid pullout would be announced early next week. Significantly, it appears that the US government was not consulted on the decision.

By “Iraqi authorities” the agency means Shiite militias and police predominantly influenced by Iran but thinly-disguised as Iraqi puppet government organizations.

If true, the move would confirm recent indications of a deep split within the Coalition of the Willing and a sudden collapse of Western support for George Bush’s Iraq crusade. It would be a huge blow to US prestige and would leave US troops isolated in Baghdad and the Iraqi resistance-dominated al-Anbar province.

The move would further isolate Italian and Polish troops and almost certainly precipitate their concurrent withdrawal. Evidently, neither country was consulted on the British-Australian-Japanese decision.

In fact, the Coalition forces based in the south long ago surrendered the streets to the Shiite militias – the pro-Iranian units of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. For the past two years, the Coalition forces in the south have maintained a relative peace, compared with the rest of Iraq, only through an accommodation with these forces.

Responsible observers have long warned that Coalition units in the south were in a militarily untenable position. In recent weeks the Shiite militias have, probably at Tehran’s instigation, launched several guerrilla attacks to remind the Coalition that their security depends entirely on Iranian goodwill.

Of recent weeks there have been increasing indications of a split in the Coalition. Australian prime minister John Howard, who committed only a token force to Iraq and ensured that his troops were located in the safest possible zone, pointedly announced his unwillingness to become involved in American plans for a war against Iran shortly before his recent Washington visit. Opportunistically, Howard used (and probably encouraged) disturbances in East Timor to insulate himself from demands by George Bush for a further troop commitment to Iraq. Tony Blair’s recent visit to the American president was similarly accompanied by indications of a reluctance to commit further forces to Iraq or to underwrite a US war against Iran.

A precipitate withdrawal by Coalition forces in Iraq’s south would concede the area to a variety of Iraqi partisan groups and leave the vital strategic land route from Kuwait and the port of Basra exposed to harassment and interdiction. This would necessitate the US diverting significant military resources to protect the route. Without the Basra-Baghdad highway and railway, the US occupation forces would be almost totally dependent on airlift capability to sustain operations, placing them in an increasingly dangerous position.

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