Tuesday, February 20, 2007

History Repeats Itself For British Role in MidEast

In 1922, after oil was disovered in defeated portion of the former Turkish Ottoman Empire affiliated area now known as "Iraq", British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly drew up a hasty occupation map for British forces in a hotel room one night, beginning an ill fated history of British involvement in the MidEast area.

Now British forces plan to start a withdrawal from the Basra area of Iraq, mainly due to political problems back home with a shaky Labour Party situation and outging leader, Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is not that that the British have left the Basra area in good hands by turning over many police or military duties to the iraqis; quite the contrary, often British simply handed policing duties over to police stations soon to be overrun or even controlled by miliitia group elements or other undesirable elements. Britain once again finds itself facing political pressures at home because of MidEast policy, and is only acting politically.

Back home in Britain, a new poll puts the Labour Party at a mere 29% public support with Finance Minister Gordon Brown as leader. The Conservatives now command a huge 42% with their party leader, David Cameron. The smaller Liberal Democrats and their leader, Menzies Campbell only draw 17% support. The decision to draw down British forces in Iraq is heavily tilted towards shoring up sagging Labour Party fortunes back home more than any real "mission accomplished" in Iraq.

Britain faced many problems in the MidEast since their 1922 occupation of Iraq, including criticism of only allowing limited amounts of European Jews to emigrate to safety in Palestine during WWII, continued conflict in Iraq that lasted until the 1958 rebellion, the rise of Gamal Nasser in Egypt and the growing Arab Socialist movement, and the ill-fated Suez Canal Crisis in which the U.S. was tied down with the tense Soviet Cold War situation in Hungary in 1956 and could not act to back up the British, allowing Britain and France a very shallow military victory, but cetainly not a political one. In fact Britain was heavily damaged politically by the Suez Canal Crisis political fallout.

Now Britain finds itself in a similiar MidEast bind once again. Political pressure is forcing Britain to withdrawal some forces to satisfy war critics back home, while Afghanistan is only worsening as Spring is expected to bring fresh Taliban and Al Qaeda attacks demanding the need for more British forces to back up slender NATO and U.S. units.

One thing is nearly certain. As some British forces withdraw from Iraq, more American troops will be needed to fill in in Basra. So far the Iraqi units are not completely dependable to act independently from militia groups or death squad violence. The plans for Iraqis to manage their own security still go largely unfulfilled in Basra as British troops claim something of a politically based technical "victory" and begin to go home or to Afghanistan.