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Iraq: a changed tune « Previous | |Next »
February 22, 2007

Tony Blair's presentation of the UK's Iraq troop reduction (1,600 British troops) as a modest orderly step towards the completion, as planned, of the task on which he embarked in 2003, was a cover for the defeat of a tragic policy. It's a withdrawal.

Alan Moir

The Howard Government, which has backed itself into a corner with its attacks on "cut and run", is now using the language of withdrawal. Just a couple of weeks ago it was saying that any withdrawal would be disastrous: a victory for terrorists that would threaten Australia's national security---- it was a catastrophe, would embolden terrorists, increase the bloodshed, and motivate the Islamic terrorists on our doorstep.

Once again Canberra follows the lines of the script from Washington: the UK withdrawal is a success! Juan Cole says it is otherwise:

This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq's South have made it impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British consulate to the airport because they couldn't protect it in Basra. They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night.

One account of life in Iraq. It still looks as if the surge is a desperate PR gamble that will have little more than a very short, very localized effect.

So why doesn't Washington just declare victory and leave---- it's "Mission Accomplished" etc. Oh I forgot. There' the little case Iran flexing its power in the region. We lovers of freedom and democracy cannot have that now can we?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:38 AM | | Comments (20)


I wonder how it will be before the average punter realises that the British withdrawal was due to an understanding that they couldn't win. Cole goes on to say:

"Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come."

The very opposite of what Howard/Downer/Nelson are saying.

A few months ago the central govt operating out of the green zone ordered the closure of a police station in Basra that had come under the control of a militia group. When the order was ignored the govt had to rely on the British army to do the job. Once cleared, the British demolished the station to prevent its reoccupation. The situation in Iraq can be better understood through the actions of the various players and not their words.

I think the reason behind the US troop surge is more to do with maintaining the status quo rather than anything to do with achieving victory. During 2006, the insurgency gradually increased in strength, and the Americans are now trying to rollback some of their gains.

I don’t think the Americans will consider withdrawing until they’re sure that Iraq will remain broken and fractured. It doesn’t matter whether Iraqi Arabs are disunited due to sunni/shia or secular/islamist conflict, just as long as the Arabs remain at war or remain politically divided. In the long term I suspect the Americans and Israelis would be hoping for a multiway partition of Iraq with Kirkuk and Mosel under Kurdish control.

I reckon the Blair Government has been seeking to find a way to close the Iraq chapter for a year or so.

Blair says

What all this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be, but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra's history can be written by the Iraqis,"
The change of responsibility was meant as evidence of progress.

A likely scenario is that the Iraqi army can't hold the line in the south and it descends into civil war.

If the Iraqis ever manage to settle on the power-sharing agreement (presumably, an objective of current U.S. policy) it will come only after bitter fighting in the civil war that is already well under way.It's a deadly civil war given the rate of killing in Iraq -- easily more than 60,000 in the last three years.

of course there are possible outcomes of continued civil war in Iraq to the return of a viable Iraqi state based on a political bargain among Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders. These outcomes would include a formal breakup of the country or a decisive victory south of the Kurdish areas by a Shiite-dominated military organization that would impose a harsh dictatorship.

Civil wars usually end with a decisive military victory -- and this one may as well. A decisive military victory and political dictatorship for some Shiite group can't be all that appealing as a long-term regional U.S. policy objective.

I think this "Training" is just the new buzz word.
I know someone who has been in Iraq training the police for 4 years. Geez you would of thought they would of got it by now.

they haven't got it because its civil war.I saw a clip of Brendan Nelson, the Defence Minister at the Hyatt in Canberra saying there can be no victory in Iraq.

The Howard Government is at sixes and sevens. eEvents are passing them by.

Yes, Victory for only those that crave Chaos.
Do you know what the date would be of the furtherest possible Aust Election?
I think some cracks are showing in Howards Way.
Rudd rode to popularity in a couple of months. Why not another leader...Surely the party can see Major seat losses?

If the Americans and Israelis cannot achieve hegemony over Arab Iraq then they'll surely be trying to engineer division and turmoil. They already face two regional contender states, Iran and Syria. They won't want a third, especially an oil rich one. Civil wars have been raging on and off in countries such as Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Afghanistan etc for decades. That's what they hope for Arab Iraq if they can't control it.

There was no real ill will been Sunni and Shia Arabs before the invasion. There was ill will between secular Sunnis and Islamist Shias. Before the invasion, the secular Bathist regime had been cracking down on militant Islamic forces to the south and separatist Kurdish forces to the north. When George Bush senior had called for an uprising against the regime in 1991, he quickly withdrew support for the uprising when it became clear that Shia Islamist militants were leading the rebellion in the south.

yes for the neo-cons a breakup of Iraq is preferable to a Shi'ite Iraqi government linked to Iran for the Americans and Israeli's, if they cannot establish a client state.

I presume that the neocons are opposed to any peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israeli's as their strategy is gain Israel as much time as they can to allow Israel to consolidate its position on the West Bank and create a precedent for imposing a final border unilaterally.

I presume that Vic President Cheney's office" is the stronghold of the neo-cons.

re the federal election date--I'm not sure. I read somewhere that it was mid December.

Yes cracks are showing in Howard's way. Nelson's recent claims---that Australia's involvement in Iraq is as important as the Kokoda Track campaign that turned back invading Japanese forces in World War II, whilst conceding that there will be no swift victory in Iraq and that the strife-torn nation will never adopt a Western-style democracy---look to me as a desperate attempt at papering over the cracks.

Howard has been in this before, has a big war chest and the economy very much in the Coalition's favour. Howard is making Iraq an issue and he pounds away on it. Yet the electorate is against the Prime Minister on this issue. What then is the effect of Howard & Co upping the Iraq issue into a do or die one ( raw fear) in terms of the electorate's judgement about Howard? I'm not sure.

I reckon Howard judges that he can hang on----hence all that time spent in Perth this week. The ever-widening corruption crisis, which goes to the heart of the Labor organisation, does damage federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd's plan to pick up West Australian seats at this year's federal election.

A this stage most of the federal Coalition's political credibility hangs on the economy, and the Howard Government knows how to extract maximum political credit from its role as an good economic manager.

I would expect a huge ad campaign from the coalition to begin asking voters to make the next election on Local Issues to try and take the emotion out it.

Mid December is too late I would think too hot...people are more likely to be sweaty and angry at everything...October is more likely I think...still plenty of time to get a new leader up.
Costello/Nelson perhaps

This paragraph from the Confidence Tricks by Shaun Carney in The Age addresses your concern abouthe Coalition's election strategy:

As the second half of 2006 progressed you could see the Government ticking off the boxes. Leadership: sorted out on both sides with Howard having Beazley's measure. Economy: we've taken a hit on interest rates but still own that issue. National security: own that too. Health: Labor has it but we can always manage it come election time. Education: we run on values and can cancel out Labor's built-in advantage. Environment: Labor can have it; rising housing values will always trump green issues. The flaw in the reasoning was that it was an attempt to fight the past two elections all over again.

It does appear that there has been a narrowing of the gap between the parties on national security. This makes it more probable that the central battleground for the election will be the economy.

Well that is what the Canberra Press gallery is saying.

Yes it seems now that the Labor Party made the right choice in getting rid of Dunderklumpin in preference to Rudd. Rudd has proven himself to be a savvy media player but I am unconvinced that he will be a good PM. As I may of told you before he was my local member when I lived in Brisbane and I have spoken to him on a few occasions. Once while we lined up for hamburgers at the school fete he told me something completely untrue so that aspect of him remains with me.

This is Geoff Gallop, former Premier of WA:

Kevin's made a very good start, and I reckon Labor can win federally. But gee, the economy is a hard nut to crack. Australians are very practical and conservative, just like Kevin. And I think with things like Iraq and industrial relations, Howard has begun to vacate the centre ground he owned, which gives Labor a chance. But then there's what I call the Sweaty Hands Syndrome. They might go off Howard on a whole lot of issues, but with the economy going so well, will people ultimately enter that polling booth and vote against him? That's the big challenge for Kevin.

He's talking abut WA, where the ALP is vulnerable.

W.A has issues that don't reflect on the rest of Australia so I don't think it can be used as a guide for Australia.
The mining industry is booming and this is taking the realer estate market and the employment figures to unrealistic places.
From memory I think Gallop was a Beazley supporter but I would value his opinion.

Off topic a bit but I do think the use of Anti-depressants is getting to the Over prescribed area.

yes WA is different--just like Queensland. Federal Labor is vulnerable in both states and it cannot afford to lose seats (eg.,Cowan and Swan) in WA. The Howard Government reckons it could pick up seats in Perth given the boom time in WA. Queensland has been Labor’s Achilles heel throughout the Howard era. Will the socially conservative Sunshine Staters change their adherence in droves?

I presume Howard + his campaign team run by Brian Loughnane, coupled to the Liberal Party polling by Mark Textor, are working out how to hit Rudd so that by the time the election comes around Rudd will be punch-drunk and spin out. Well that's their interpretation of what they did to Latham----re-writing history in my judgement.

Presumably, Howard's line "Rudd is a bit full of himself" was the first shot in deflating Rudd's credibility.

Turnbull hit out a little on Insiders this morning about the constant jibes about his wealth...His reply
Well, Rudd and Garrett are very well off too. This fact I think will go against them both as the election nears.
At present Rudd resembles a Strong tree. The libs have a strategic plan to chop away at the roots and make the tree fall or die rather than chop the tree straight down.

at the moment it's more like a steady chipping away---- a whittling away on the two party preferred. That is moving the government's way.

The "honeymoon" stuff will die down soon enough, and then its down to the hard slog.

I think its only a matter of time before Labor shoots itself in the foot again.

I presume the Coalition's heavy hitters will soon be rolled out to rough and tumble Rudd around so that he makes a mistake. That 'Mr. Nice Guy' image needs to be tarnished.