ELECTIONS IN IRAQ….Our coalition partner appears to be off the reservation:

British officials in Basra no longer oppose early elections in Iraq, saying security and procedural obstacles to polls could be surmounted before the transfer to civilian control on June 30.

“We have a working hypothesis that you could manage an electoral process within the timeframe and the security available,” said Dominic D’Angelo, British spokesman for the UK-led southern zone of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Basra.

The “working hypothesis” is that although creating election rolls using ration cards wouldn’t work, a mixture of ration, health and identity cards probably would.

The technical question here is of interest to technicians, but the bigger and more interesting question is, Why? Why are the British deliberately undermining our position that elections in June aren’t feasible? Juan Cole suggests two possibilities: (a) payback for the way Bush/Bremer have treated them and (b) “pure fear” over the size of Shiite protests in Basra.

Panic over the protests seems an unlikely explanation to me ? although they are unquestionably cause for serious concern ? but there have been hints over the past few months that the British are not entirely happy with the state of the partnership. Fareed Zakaria wrote a few months ago that “with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by [U.S. treatment].” Are we now down to just Israel?

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