Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita and Basra

Looks like another major hurricane is on the way to the Gulf States. This time it looks like Texas is to be the one - particularly Houston which is still housing many of the displaced residents of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. I can only guess what they must be feeling knowing that they are about to go through it all again. Unfortunately my cynical mind is at work, and I wonder how quickly Bush will respond if it is Houston and Texas that is hit. I just pray that people are better prepared and suffering is kept to a minimum.

Yesterday, British troops launched an assault on a Police station in Basra to secure the release of two soldiers who had been arrested. No details as to whether the arrests were justified or not, but the fear was that the Police force had been infiltrated by militia who are more loyal to the insurgents, than the country. I believe the assault was justified, particularly as it was later discovered that the soldiers handed over to militants and had been moved to a house in the town - presumably to become the latest executions. What was notable, from accounts I have read, is that the troops carried out their mission without deaths or sustained fire-fights. In fact there were no reports of any shots being fired at all. It was, to all intents and purposes, a clinical, well planned (though it was put together quickly) assault that disarmed all opposition before it had time to react. What it does say, however, is that Southern Iraq that has, so far, been living peacefully with the British troops, are now starting to be roused - probably by the Mehdi Army militants, and are possibly being supported by the Shia population of Iran, just over the border.

The British honeymoon in Iraq is well and truly over and the exit strategy is effectively an illusion. This has happened to us before when in Aden, in the '60's, we had the task to hold the line while an effective security force was put in place, but the plan broke down when local groups took over. The exit strategy in Iraq, rests on 2 pillars: local security and constitutional government, and until those pillars are firmly in place, I don't think it would be right for the troops to leave and come home - much though I would like them to. This mess is very much down to the politicians who took us in there without a clear objective on what we would do and how we would achieve it. They should resign en-masse.

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