24 October, 2006

Guardian on Iraq

In an article featuring one of their own polls, the Guardian is getting excited about 61% of voters wanting British troops withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.

Leaving aside the methodological issues of the reliability and validity of such polls, the Guardian's article is a prime example of how the media create stories in support of their own views. Cut the paragraphs about the poll (first four and last two) from the story and you are left with a respectable news item on the current problems in Iraq, the thrust of which is that British troops could be reduced in the near future because it may, or even should, be possible to hand over security to the Iraqis. However, such positive news does not fit the Guardian's anti-war agenda so it is buried deep in the body of the text.

Ministry of Defence and senior British military commanders are now signalling that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut significantly by early next year.

Major General Richard Shirreff, the British commander in southern Iraq, said yesterday that the planning assumption was that there could be what he called a "reasonable reduction" in the 7,000-strong force in southern Iraq at the end of the current operation designed to rid Basra of serious criminals and corrupt officials. Operation Sinbad, involving about 3,000 British troops and Iraqi forces, is expected to finish in February.

In a little-noticed report to the Commons defence committee, the MoD said at the end of last week that the Iraqi army would be in a position to take over responsibility for security in southern Iraq by the end of this year. "The 10th Division of the Iraqi army [covering southern Iraq] will be fully operational by December 2006 and the intention is to have transferred operational command to the Iraqi ground forces command by this date," the MoD says.

Senior defence officials say the total number of British troops in Iraq could be cut by as much as half by next summer.

That timetable, however, may still depend on the reaction of US commanders concerned about the impact at home and abroad of a significant British pullout.
I wonder how many of those interviewed by the Guardian could identify Basra, or Kirkuk or even Baghdad on a map.


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