While the coverage is still thin, the Basra pullout by British forces at least made it into the US press today.
Recent weeks have brought a lot of misplaced criticism of the United Kingdom's role in southern Iraq. It is time to set the record straight.
Des Browne and David Miliband, the British Defense and Foreign Secretaries, writing in the WaPo, use an unusual tactic (an op-ed) to address US sniping at the Brits' position on withdrawal. From This Is London:
The growing U.S. attacks on its biggest and most loyal partner in the coalition have clearly rattled Downing Street, and the intervention of two senior ministers was seen as a sign of Government anxiety that relations with Washington are being undermined by U.S. carping.
That criticism has grown in recent weeks with the revelation that British troops would soon pull back from their Basra Palace HQ to the last remaining base near the airport on the outskirts of the city.
[The other U.S. piece on Basra found today is background from NPR]:
There's increasing concern that the withdrawal of British troops will intensify a turf battle between Shiite groups which, in turn, could leave vulnerable a vital supply route for U.S. forces, as well as the southern oil fields and the Port of Basra.
Military analysts say the United States — already stretched thin in Iraq — most likely will have to send its troops to Basra.
More on the story is available in the British press. From the Guardian:
President George Bush yesterday sought to end criticism from the Pentagon and the state department of the British decision to pull troops out of Basra.
Mr Bush, who had been informed by the British government about its alarm over the criticism in recent weeks, said he was "fine" about the handover to Iraqi forces in Basra. His comments came as the defence secretary, Des Browne, and the foreign secretary, David Miliband, took the rare step of publishing a joint article in the Washington Post to rebut the criticism.
The Basra story and US-British relations are of continuing interest. The infighting between coalition partners is, of course, not something the Administration wants to highlight in advance of the September discussion of Iraq benchmarks and status reports.
Yet another take on it is that that Bush will have someone else to blame if things go sour. After all, blaming others for his own failings and misjudgments is the one thing Bush is actually good at.