16 September 2007
2,500 British troops to leave Iraq: border deployment only short term
The movement of 350 men of the King's Royal Hussars to the Iranian border is becoming clearer. They are on the border, but in the area of east of Basra and the Shatt al Arab waterway. In other words they are not spread out and are within scuttling distance of the rest of the force if things look like they are going wrong.
Pressure seems to be building up on the government from the Ministry of Defence, who take the view that this could lead to conflict with Iran. This is obviously what the Americans want, but the word coming out of London is that 2,500 troops will leave Iraq in November. They will be stationed just across the border in Kuwait, and the line is that they will train Iraqi troops from there. The point is that they will be out of harm's way. That decision has not yet been confirmed, and may be part of an army and MoD campaign to force the government to call it a day by selective leaks.
It is perhaps in this light that we should see the recent move. Hopefully it will not cause too much trouble with the Iranians, and it allows the British to pretend that they are not preparing for a full retreat from the whole of Iraq.
If the Iranians understand that, then this brief deployment may pass off without a hitch. The problem is, what if they don't?