Maybe a connection?

#1
This was said in April 2004. Wonder what sort of consent he's getting right now?
(Emboldening by me)
Violence in Iraq will get even worse, says Blair
By Melissa Kite in Washington and Alex Thomson in Basra
(Filed: 18/04/2004)

Tony Blair will tell MPs tomorrow that Britain should be prepared for worse violence in Iraq in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister believes that British and American troops must brace themselves for "acts of desperation" by anti-Coalition rebels as the June 30 deadline for the handover of sovereignty in Iraq draws closer, senior advisers to Mr Blair said yesterday.

Brig Nick Carter says Coalition is in Basra only as long as local Shia leader accepts their presence

The warnings came as the commander of British troops in southern Iraq, Brig Nick Carter, admitted that he would be powerless to prevent the overthrow of Coalition forces if the Shia majority in Basra rose up in rebellion. Brig Carter, of the 20 Armoured Brigade, who has been in Iraq for four months, said British forces would stay in Basra with the consent of local Shia leaders, or not at all.


Last month, 14 British soldiers were injured in Basra, at least three seriously, when they came under attack from demonstrators armed with petrol bombs, rocks and a grenade.

"A crowd of 150,000 people at the gates of this barracks would be the end of this, as far as I'm concerned," Brig Carter said. "There would be absolutely nothing I could do about that."

Senior military officials fear that insurgents may be planning a "spectacular" as they mount last-ditch efforts to disrupt the US-led timetable of restoring sovereignty to Iraq. Fighting in the Sunni-dominated city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, where an estimated 1,000 Iraqis died in clashes last week between American soldiers and mujahideen rebels, is causing particular concern.

British officers in Basra are also worried about the stand-off at the twin holy cities of Najaf and Kufa, where the fiery Islamic cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, has taken refuge from 2,500 American troops determined either to capture or kill him. "If the Americans go into Najaf, there will be 300 Fallujahs," said one officer.

A senior aide to Mr Blair said: "We have to recognise that there might be a certain amount of desperation. All the groups realise the significance of the June 30 deadline. Exactly what will happen we don't know. Fallujah is historically a terrible place that even Saddam Hussein could not control."

Officials at the Ministry of Defence acknowledge that a planned scaling down of British troops in the region in coming months is unlikely to go ahead. There are 13,000 British soldiers in Iraq, and the MoD had earlier said that their number would be reduced first to 9,000 and then to 1,000 in 2005.

It was revealed yesterday that President George W. Bush gave Mr Blair the option of withholding British troops from combat before the war because of the domestic opposition the Prime Minister faced over the Iraq invasion. According to a book about the war, Plan of Attack, by the veteran Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, Mr Blair is said to have replied: "I said I'm with you, and I mean it."

Downing Street officials insisted that Mr Blair had not been asked by President Bush to commit more troops during their meeting at the White House on Friday. A spokesman said, however, that the number of British troops would remain under review.

In an interview broadcast today on ABC News, Mr Blair admits for the first time that he underestimated the threat Coalition troops faced in Iraq. The Prime Minister says: "I think most of us would say we probably underestimated the basic security threat that we faced. And we're trying to tackle that now.

"In terms of the day-by-day management of the issue, sure, I don't doubt that we'll look back afterwards and say, 'Well, we could have done this differently or that differently'." The admission came during an interview recorded on Friday in Washington.

During an interview in Basra last week Brig Carter acknowledged that the Coalition's presence in southern Iraq was entirely dependent on the goodwill of the local Shia Muslim leader, Sayid Ali al-Safi al-Musawi. He represents Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's leading Shia cleric. "The moment that Sayid Ali says, 'We don't want the Coalition here', we might as well go home," Brig Carter said.

Earlier this month, British troops battled to restore order in Basra as 1,000 Shia gunmen loyal to al-Sadr stormed the Governor's office to protest at the arrest of one of al-Sadr's senior aides and the closure of his newspaper. At the time, Brig Carter described the situation as "extremely volatile".
 
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