Wikileaks: Iraqi premier feared British withdrawal would cause chaos
IRAQ'S prime minister believed British failure to bring order to Basra threatened to have a domino effect in other cities, bringing chaos to Iraq.
Nouri al-Maliki told US officials on his return from a visit to Basra in June 2006 that he was "deeply concerned about security and economic deterioration".
The US cable reports: "Maliki, who several times during the meeting noted his 'deep, deep concern' about the situation in Basrah, cited the long list of urgent problems: violent tribal and political rivalries; totally dysfunctional and compromised police force; mafia-like gangs menacing the city; probable nefarious foreign involvement; and overall collapse of the infrastructure.
"In his discussions with Basrah leaders, Maliki said that he had heard complaints about British forces, including allegations that they are assassinating people."
The PM makes clear to the Americans that stability across the whole of Iraq is at stake: "The PM insisted that the people of Basrah are ready for change, and if he loses Basrah he said he fears that other Iraqi cities could also collapse."
In a later meeting Maliki "hoped (the US/UK Coalition] would not withdraw our personnel from Basrah because doing so would be the wrong signal to send to those instigating the violence."
Violence and unrest in Basra was Britain's fault, according to an Iraqi military source in private discussions with US diplomats. The identity of the source is being withheld by Scotland on Sunday.
More: the Iraq cables
• Wikleaks: US anger at Gordon Brown's Iraq withdrawal
• Wikileaks: Gordon Brown 'wanted to undo Tony Blair's Iraq mistake'
• Basra: timeline of UK military involvement in Iraq
• Iraqi premier feared British withdrawal would cause
• Tories asked to oppose pull-out
• Leader: Historical insight
A cable from June 2006 describes a conversation between US officials and this military source, in which he lists the UK's failures.
"XXX told PolOff (political officers] that the UK was to blame for the lack of security in Basra. He said the UK has allowed Shia militias to largely control Basrah and has done little to assert control. The UK, he argued, 'worked with the strong, not the qualified,' and therefore Basrah's serious rule of law problems."
Britain's intention to withdraw troops also causes concern at the United Nations. At a meeting between US officials and David Vaness, the UN's undersecretary-general for safety and security, southern Iraq is discussed under a heading: "Terrorists Should Not Push Us Out of Basrah".
The cable reports: "The ambassador explained that the USG (US Government] is in discussions with our British colleagues about whether to stay in (Basra] palace.
"Abandoning the palace under terrorist pressure would not be a good signal to send to the terrorists," he pointed out. Veness agreed that moving to the Basrah Air Station would not be good for the long term.
Britain is left in no doubt what its US allies think about its intentions.
Read the cables online
• PM hopes to complete selection of security ministers soon; deeply concerned about Basrah
• U.N. Undersecretary General Vaness discusses staffing and Basrah
• XXXXXXXXXXX blames UK for security problems
• UK defense secretary says Basrah to transfer by August
• UK relents on Basrah Governor; outlines future troop deployment
• UK defense secretary says HMG will drawdown, and Iran is a menace
• David Cameron tells John McCain Tories won't break with HMG where troops are concerned
• UK reaffirms long-term presence in Iraq; praises PM Maliki's new confidence
• Crocker/Petraeus meetings with UK Defense Secretary and senior military officials, September 18, 2007
• Scenesetter for Secretary Paulson's visit to London September 17-18At meeting in Baghdad in January 2007, UK Defence Secretary Des Browne is told: "The (US] Ambassador stressed the importance of the UK maintaining a solid presence in the center of Basrah, noting that the Coalition does not want the enemy to think we have given up."
But the British Government's mind is made up. An October 2007 minute of a meeting between US and UK officials confirms the move from the centre of Basra to a base at the airport as a precursor to withdrawal.
A terse sentence follows: "Discussion on that issue was now closed."
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