The British occupation forces in southern Iraq passed military command of the region to the US Army this week.
The handover was hailed by Gordon Brown’s government as a major landmark on the road towards the final withdrawal of the 4,100 British troops in Basra. But Iraq is far from a success story – with more than a million Iraqis dead, and thousands more wounded.
Since the 2003 invasion, some 179 British personnel and over 4,000 US troops have also been killed.
The US claims that Iraq is now stable, but this ‘stability’ rests on the cooperation between US forces and the Sunni-based Iraqi ‘awakening councils’.
The fragility of this set up was made clear last week when clashes broke out between fighters from the ‘awakening councils’ and occupation forces in Baghdad.
The occupation rests on dividing up the country into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas. The northern city of Mosul, a key oil centre, is increasingly the scene of clashes between Kurdish and Sunni forces over who will control it.
British troops are to remain in Iraq even after formally withdrawing in order to train Iraqi security forces.
Reg Keys, Rose Gentle and Peter Brierley, three members of Military Families Against the War who have all lost sons in Iraq, delivered a letter to Downing Street last week calling for a full public inquiry into the Iraq war.
Later the same day, foreign secretary David Miliband told parliament that an inquiry would take place ‘as soon as practicable’ after most British troops return from Iraq in July.
However, Miliband suggested that the inquiry is likely to take place in secret.
This would be an insult to democracy and all of those who have campaigned tirelessly for the truth about the disastrous Iraq war.
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