Peace breaks out in Basra?

[Wednesday]

And as Brown does his “turn lies into headlines” trick (it never fails, see below) over troop withdrawals from Iraq, news from Basra seems to contradict the “civil war when we leave” hypothesis:

Residents of Iraq’s southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.

Political assassinations and sectarian violence continue, some city officials say, but on a much smaller scale than at any time since British troops moved into the city after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mortar rounds, rockets and small arms fire crashed almost daily into the palace, making life hazardous for British and Iraqis alike in Iraq’s second-largest city. To many Basrans the withdrawal of the British a month ago removed a proven target.

“The situation these days is better. We were living in hell … the area is calm since their withdrawal,” said housewife Khairiya Salman, who lives near the palace.

Civil servant Wisam Abdul Sada agreed. “We do not hear the sounds of explosions which were shaking our houses and terrifying our women and children,” he told Reuters.

Apparently, rocket attacks on the British forces in Basra have gone down significantly. It’s not perfect, but it’s much more hopeful than supporters of the occupation had suggested.

As for Brown’s deceit:

1000 troops to return by Christmas: Gordon Brown’s announcement catches many off-guard – and of the 1000, many are already back.

Five hundred more British soldiers back from Iraq by the end of the year.

It was a sudden announcement by Gordon Brown that took even the Ministry of Defence by surprise.

‘Cynical electioneering’?
Mr Brown, on his first visit to Iraq as Prime Minister, said a total of a 1,000 troops should be home by Christmas – but that includes 500 who were already known to be pulling out.

But there was no word on how long the remaining 4,500-strong force would stay.

The Conservatives accused him of ‘cynical electioneering’ as speculation mounts over a snap November poll.

Stealing thunder?
So was this a prime-ministerial trip to evaluate troop withdrawal in Iraq or a blatant attempt at stealing the Tories’ thunder?

His visit to the heavily fortified green zone had included a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, where Mr Brown had urged for a renewed effort by Iraq’s political parties to work together on rebuilding their country.

Although it is a sentiment the Tories would back wholeheartedly, the timing of his trip to Baghdad went down like a lead balloon in Blackpool.

Is there anyone who hasn’t seen through Brown’s trick? Making the headlines with a misleading announcement – either in parliament, or out of it (as in this case) – and grinning as it takes days for the papers to print details of the lie.

There may be a major statement in parliament by Brown next week, but it is doubtful that there will be any further troop withdrawals. Remember, most service personnel in Iraq will remain there indefinitely. New Labour would like us to think that this is because Washington calls the shots, but the truth is that Brown and co are willing servants.

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