Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And Then There Were Just 150,000

Well, there are a few more than that as a few countries have hung on in Iraq.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today that 2,100 British troops would be withdrawn from Iraq in two troches. The first 1,500 will leave in the next few weeks with the remaining 500 coming out in late spring or early summer. The balance of the British forces – 5,000 troops – will turn over day-to-day security patrolling to the Iraqi army and pull back into two large bases outside Basra – one of which is the Basra airport. UK soldiers will patrol the border with Iran and serve as a rapid response force should the Iraqis need help.

Some British media suggested that by the end of 2007, UK troop strength in Iraq might be down to about 3,000. At that point, if not before, the main concern will shift from fighting to keeping the logistics lines of communications open so that U.S. forces in Baghdad will not unexpectedly find they have neither beans nor bullets. This also implies that, should the Iraqi army need help from the Brits, the U.S. might have to come in and help the Brits help the Iraqis.

Press reports also said that Denmark will withdraw its 650 troops and that Lithuania may well follow suit. On the other hand, the Australians are talking of sending another 70 soldiers to Iraq. And in case you missed the semantic spin, the Aussies insist that the UK is reducing forces, not withdrawing, since the UK will maintain a presence. But the Danes – sounds like the Aussiea consider their departure “cut and run.”

And while on the topic of semantics, there is a report that the U.S. Navy is now referring to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Sea. Granted, Persia was renamed Iran in 1935, while across the water there was the Arabian peninsula – at least that’s what western cartographers called it.

I thought the Arabian Sea was outside the Gulf as a subset of the Indian Ocean in the area of water bounded by eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and western India. So why – if the report is valid – change now, 72 years after Persia changed its name? Could it be gratuitous nose-tweaking? Or maybe map makers are looking for work.


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