In military terms, the Coalition setbacks of the past few days don’t appear very significant. But this is essentially a political war and politically things are going very badly. There is little sign that the Coalition forces are regarded as liberators, even in Southern Iraq where it was expected that they would be welcomed with open arms by the mainly Shia population. While the anti-war camp can say ‘I told you so’, this is scant comfort. We will all have to live with the consequences of a war which is rapidly becoming one of conquest rather than liberation.

The only thing that could make the situation much worse is large-scale civilian casualties. These are most likely to arise, as they have in the past, not from the direct impact of bombing but from starvation and disease. Such an outcome is already threatened in Basra where the water supply to much of the city has been cut off following the destruction of the power plant at the main water supply station. So far, there has been no serious response from the Coalition leaders to this potential disaster.

If there is to be any chance of a successful peace, the Coalition must take all necessary measures to ensure that water supply to Basra is restored, even if this means lifting the siege of the city.