In Memory of Maude
Meanwhile, The Scotsman reports on the British government’s agreement to deploy 850 British troops in the area southwest of Baghdad.
Here’s my lay guess as to what this is about: Bush wants to flatten Fallujah as soon as the US elections are over. Flattening Fallujah requires moving another battalion or so to that western city. But that battalion is now tied down fighting the guerrillas in Latifiyah and environs. So the British are being brought in to keep a lid on the insurgency there, so as to free up forces for the assault on Fallujah.
Latifiyah is more dangerous than Fallujah, according to one US soldier in a recent interview. So the British are not coming north for a picnic.
If my interpretation is correct, it demonstrates how completely overstretched the US military is in Iraq. With over 130,000 troops on the ground, with stop loss orders in effect kidnapping troops far beyond the time they signed up for, the US doesn’t have 1,000 troops to spare for a Fallujah campaign. It is completely tied down. So Bush needed Blair once again to save his behind.
The British military does not approve, on the whole, of American flattening operations, and declined to be involved in any. So the British brass only acquiesced if they could keep British rules of engagement, which are far less Draconian than US ones. (The US military replies with overwhelming force to an attack, even if doing so would cause indiscriminate harm to civilians.) The British will likely therefore not attack Latifiyah, but will just try to implement their Basra-type brand of community policing, learned in Belfast.
The guerrillas in Latifiyah, however, may not cooperate. If the Sunni areas become inflamed by the Bush assault on the city of Fallujah, however, all bets are off, and the guerrillas will target the British troops for suicide bombings and drive-by shootings, in hopes of turning Labour backbenchers decisively against Blair. (Public opinion doesn’t matter in a parliamentary system, or Blair would already be out; it just matters that a Prime Minister can survive a vote of no-confidence and that the movers and shakers in his party don’t dump him, as happened to Maggie Thatcher).
Will Labour put up with American-scale casualties in Iraq, say 25 dead every week or two?