IRAQ IN A NUTSHELL….Brad Plumer notes the following from a Time magazine article about U.S. problems in Iraq:

None of the intelligence officers who spoke with Time or their ranking superiors could provide a plausible road map toward stability in Iraq….Yet, despite their gloom, every one of the officers favors continuing ? indeed, augmenting ? the war effort.

Brad notes pithily: “This whole thing seems deeply, deeply fucked.” Yes it does.

On a related note, the BBC reports that the British Ministry of Defense claims to have “negotiated” the release of a pair of undercover servicemen in Basra who were accused of shooting at Iraqi police, but according to the Iraqis this “negotiation” involved six tanks that demolished a wall of the jail and allowed 150 prisoners to escape. Earlier, two tanks sent to the jail had been set afire by an angry mob.

Until recently, Basra has been relatively calm. No longer.

UPDATE: CNN got this statement from an unnamed Iraqi official about their side of the story:

The official said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.

The two gunmen fled the scene but were captured and taken in for questioning, admitting they were British marines carrying out a “special security task,” the official said.

I guess there’s no telling yet who’s lying and who’s not, but I think the Ministry of Defense is going to have to offer a little more detail about what these guys were up to.