British troops staged a gaol break using a tank to break through a prison wall and free two British soldiers held there, allowing many other Iraqi prisoners to flee the prison.
While the Ministry of defence noted "We have not had confirmation of the full details of this. We´ve heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison. We understand there were negotiations." An official from Iraq´s interior ministry confirmed that six tanks demolished the prison wall before troops stormed the building and the governor of Basra criticised the forces "barbaric aggression".
The two undercover soldiers (thought to be Special Forces) were held by Iraqi security forces after firing at Iraqi police at a road block! Under the agreement between the Iraqi state and the coalition troops, the soldiers were supposed to be handed over to the British Authorities, but the Iraqi´s refused to release them. John Reid (the British secretary of defence) claimed that the soldiers "were seen being injured in the graphic photographs", but now confirms they only have minor injuries.
So what on earth is going on? Well, apparently, the British army has been criticised for failing to stem the infiltration of radicals into the Iraqi police. So, it is speculated that the undercover officer thought the Iraqi Police were in fact "insurgents". This throws a spotlight on the British government claims that Iraqi and British forces are getting along famously, and the jail break indicates how little faith British forces have in the criminal justice system set up in the wake of the invasion.
Yet again we are forced to wonder just how much our meddling has actually helped the Iraqi people. Furthermore, such a blatant rejection of the local legal system will hardly inspire faith in the local population. This is a major failing because the area controlled by Britain is largely Shia, and they initially welcomed the "liberating army". Now, Basra is a hot-bed of criminality and insurgency.
Some commentators blame this situation on the proximity of the area to Iran (which has allegedly provided munitions for the insurgency) and the absorption of elements of Moqtada al-Sadr´s Mahdi army and the Shia Badr brigades (who are closely allied to groups in Tehran). However, another worrying development is the view that the situation has developed because the British army has been too soft!
Admittedly, it is harder to stage a rebellion when your city has been reduced to rubble (like Falluja), but are we really saying that in order to bring "democracy" to people we need to kick them (or bomb them) into submission? How many deaths does it take? Maybe I am just an idealist, but I really don´t think that peace comes from the barrel of a gun. It was at once naive and patronising to assume that we could sort out all of the problems of the area with a nice little war and be home for tea. The civil war prophesised by anti-war protestors is apparently well under way.