Damn, it is beginning to look like they will.
British troops in the tense southern city of Basra greatly reduced their presence in the streets Thursday, apparently responding to a provincial governor’s call to sever cooperation until London apologized for storming a police station to free two of its soldiers.
For the second day, no British forces were seen accompanying Iraqi police on patrols of Basra, as they routinely had in the past.
In an interview with Associated Press Television News in Baghdad on Thursday, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called Monday’s attack by British forces on a Basra police station “a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”
At least five Iraqis were killed during Monday clashes between British forces and Iraqi police and demonstrators. British armor crashed into a jail to free the two soldiers arrested by Iraqi police and militiamen. Earlier, a crowd attacked British troops with stones and Molotov cocktails.
As recently as Wednesday, Britain vowed to keep its troops in the country until they no longer were needed, but recently leaked information said it also was planning a troop reduction.
Basra Gov. Mohammed al-Waili called the attack “barbaric” and a product of imperial arrogance. He declared an end to all cooperation with British forces unless Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government apologized for the deadly clashes with Iraqi police and compensated relatives of Iraqis killed in the violence.
Raising the stakes Thursday, al-Waili said any Iraqi government employee who cooperates with British forces in Basra will be punished. He also told The Associated Press: “We want the two British soldiers who were freed to be turned over to Iraqi authorities.”