Basra, Asharq Al-Awsat- A source in the Iraq Navy said that the decision to return a British Navy force to Iraqi territorial waters was made for political reasons, not out of a military or tactical necessity.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that the British Navy force, which is composed of 100 soldiers, and which withdrew from Iraqi territorial waters to Kuwait end of last July because there was no legal cover for its in the area, is now packing to redeploy in Iraq territorial waters after the Iraqi government and parliament approved of its return on the pretext that it would protect Iraqi oil platforms and export facilities at the Basra and Al-Umayyah ports and train Iraqi navy forces. He pointed out that “the presence of this British force in Iraqi territorial waters is not justified because multinational forces as well as Iraqi Navy units are deployed in the area, that the Iraqi Navy is in control of the area, and that there are no potential foreign threats. In addition, the British force is small and its deployment does not warrant concluding an agreement.”
The British Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that 150 British soldiers will return to Iraq in the near future. Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell told the British Parliament that British navy personnel will train Iraqi security forces. He stressed that the British soldiers will undertake the mission of training Iraqi Navy soldiers as quickly as possible, and that the British soldiers will return to Iraq next month.
Ina related development, angry Iraqi youths in the Al-Basrah Governorate have threatened that they will not allow the erection of a memorial for British soldiers killed in the city during their occupation of the city. They asserted that they would blow up the memorial in the first hours after its erection. Sajid Abdul-Hussein, 23, said the memorial “would be a mark of disgrace for the people of Basra.” Nujayl Muhsin, 19, said mockingly that the British” do not need a memorial for their soldiers who were killed in the latest occupation of the city; the British cemetery in Al-Hakimiyah area still stands as testimonial to the first British occupation.” Salam Mahdi, 33, expects the day on which the memorial will be erected to be an unusual day. He said that “All people of Basra are expected to take to the streets to demonstrate in protest, that all markets, colleges, and departments will be closed, and that the people will not return home until after they have destroyed the memorial.”
Government sources said that the British Consulate in Basra intends to move a memorial for British victims who participated in the occupation of Iraq in 2003 from the former headquarters of a British unit near the British Consulate building in the Basra Airport area to a public square in the center of the city. US forces have prevented reporters and media men from taking photos of the memorial and of the place proposed for its erection.