British troops have withdrawn from central Basra to an airbase outside the southern Iraqi city.A companion analysis piece noted:
Some 550 soldiers left Basra Palace to join 5,000 troops at the UK's Basra Airport base outside the city in an operation lasting more than 12 hours.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted the withdrawal of British troops from the city was not a defeat.
Iraqi troops will take the place of British forces, which will have an "overwatch" role.
This will mean troops cannot go out unless requested by Iraqi authorities, but they will still train and mentor Iraqi security forces.
The manner of the withdrawal said a lot about the way the British occupation had developed. It was done largely at night under curfew. If the Mehdi army, the Shia militia that has harassed and attacked the British, had not been on a six-month ceasefire, for wider reasons connected to Shia politics, the force might have come under fire.The question in my mind is going to be whether the locals in Basra fall into the sort of Shia-on-Shia factional fighting that's been reported elsewhere in Iraq. My guess is that they will, which would tend to undermine the official US "clear, hold and build" strategy. Said strategy, after all, assumes that turning control of a "pacified" area over to local Iraqis is a Good Thing that will result in more Good Things.
If the British presence had been such a success, the style of its ending would have been different.
The British government's hopes that, in Basra, British troops in soft berets could steer the city to peace and prosperity were not realised. The helmets came back as the troops were attacked and Basra is left under the control of a mixture of militias and security forces, sometimes one and the same thing.
In the end, the British view was that enough had been done to stabilise Basra and that in the final analysis, no foreign force could control how Iraqis themselves decide how to run the place.
Britain never did quite manage to understand that while the Iraqis, especially the Shia, were pleased to see Saddam go, they were not pleased to see the British stay.
I really hope I'm wrong, mind you. But I'm pretty skeptical.
On the other hand, I think the change in London - or, more specifically, the Tower of London - is pretty cool. For the first time in their 522 year history, the Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary have a woman member on duty:
The first female Beefeater has made history by officially going on duty at the Tower of London.
Moira Cameron, 42, from Argyll, beat five men to the £20,000-a-year job as Yeoman Warder.
She said it was a "great privilege" to work and live at the Tower as she donned the famous blue and scarlet uniform for her first duties on Monday.
Miss Cameron joined the Army aged 16 and served the required 22 years in the Forces to become eligible for the post.