Well, it's a start, and I'm certain it isn't because the situation has suddenly taken a calm turn. What has actually happened is that the British have been unable or unwilling to force control over southern Iraq, or to try and do so with the ruthless measures used by the Bush administration, and have been forced to hand over control to Iraqis in province after province. The Bush administration do not and perhaps cannot do things that way, for obvious reasons. This is the beginning of the end, a partial victory, and we must absolutely pile on the pressure this Saturday to hammer it home: Troops Out.
The Financial Times has more info, and says that in fact the initial withdrawal is 1,600, but that still reduces it to 5,500 because there are 7,100 troops presently in the British occupied territories. The FT comments that:
For Mr Blair, in his final months as prime minister, Wednesday’s announcement is highly symbolic. After being dogged by the debacle in Iraq for nearly four years, today’s statement allows him to leave office conveying the impression – albeit a limited one – that the UK intervention has had some success.
If that's his thinking, he's in for a shock. Absolutely no one believes there has been a success of any kind or qualification. Blair is said to be ready to insist that Washington is not opposed to his move, but this comes as the US ruling class is increasingly divided over the escalation policy.
Since the Prime Minister is already going to be saying that the British occupation of southern Iraq has been a tremendous success, and this is why they can hand control of Basra over to Iraqi security, I think I should mention the firefight between British soldiers and local resistance fighters in Basra today. Of course, our superior management of the natives has resulted in southern, largely Shiite, Iraqis turning to support the resistance in overwhelming numbers, first in the Maysan province, then across the board. This particular PM isn't above claiming that Harry can take the place of all the withdrawn soldiers, mind you.