My wife called my attention to this piece in the Washington Times by Thomas Cheplick about alleged friction between the British and the Americans in Iraq (the folks at the French embassy where she works are on the look-out for stories like this). The friction, if it exists, seems to arise from philosophical differences about the best approach to carrying out an occupation. The British, with centuries of imperial experience, are said to favor working through, not abolishing, existing Iraqi political institutions. Thus, according to Cheplic, “the British have been keen to avoid protest marches and rebel takeovers, letting them burn out as they bribe middle managers in the rebels’ ranks, and work through tribal and religious chiefs.” And de-Ba’athification, a hallmark of Paul Bremer’s regime, has reportedly has not proceeded with the same intensity in the British zones of control. Indeed, Cheplic reports that “American-controlled Baghdad and British-administered Basra are now politically run on much, much different lines.”
Cheplik thinks that one of new ambassador John Negroponte’s key tasks will be to bridge the gap between the British and the Americans. As a career diplomat, one might well expect Negroponte to tilt the British way. However, Negroponte should be mindful that Sunni Baghdad is not Shiite Basra, and it is not necessarily the case that the two cites should be run along the same lines.
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