September third saw the hand over of Basra Palace from British to Iraqi control. The 550 British troops previously stationed there have gone to join the last remaining 5000 British troops in the airport base on the city's outskirts. The handover brought mixed responses from Iraqis and from the press.
Gordon Brown insisted that the move was planned as part of the British withdrawal strategy and was not a defeat, stating that in an over-watch role the troops could re-intervene on the request of the Iraqis and promised we would still "discharge our duties to the Iraqi people and the international community." Most press reports however draw attention to the lack of security, gang-warfare, and high militia presence in the city, calling the withdrawal a defeat.
One headline in the Guardian: "British leave with the job not done." And I think that about sums it up. The British Labour government's priority is to bring the troops home as quickly as possible, with an election coming up and the lack of popularity in Britain for the war and our troops continued presence in it. Not that I'm knocking it.
As I have always believed, teamed with (Islam's enemy no.1) the U.S., Britain was never going to bring security to the south — just as the same is true for the U.S. in the north. In fact I have always thought (and 69% of Iraqis think) they are causing as much violence as they are quelling. That is not surprising given the backdrop to the war: the build up of years of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, Bush Senior's lying to the Shiites and Kurds causing thousands of their deaths in 1991, the hollow precursor for the war and heavyweight belief that it was all for the oil.
Coalition atrocities that have since heightened resentment and hatred for the occupiers, combined with constant threats to Iran that have backed-up the cynicism of a war on Muslims, and the fact that almost every aspect of Iraqi life has gotten worse under the occupation have continued to worsen and intensify the insurgency. All the above cut the British troop's work out for them, and that's before we even get onto the sectarian violence caused by Saddam favoring the Sunnis and oppressing the Shiites and Kurds — but also kept a lid on by his fierce rule.