A Calamitous View of Iraq's Future-from Basra

While everyone is focusing on the U.S. led surge in Baghdad, Iraq’s second largest city Basra—a city that the British army were supposed to be pacifying — has been going down the tubes. That may well be the fate of Baghdad and much of the rest of Iraq as well, warns a report just issued by the International Crisis Group. It’s a report that should be must reading for anyone attempting to decipher where Iraq is heading.

Basra is Iraq’s economic capital, its major port; it sits astride vital supply routes for the country, and is located in Iraq’s most oil rich region. In other words, what happens in that city is crucial.

Between September 2006 and March 2007 carried out a “Operation Sinbad,” which was similar to Baghdad’s current surge. The British called it “clear, hold and civil reconstruction”– the idea being to turn over control to Iraqi military and police. According to the report, as the British continue to draw down their forces in Basra, the plan has failed miserably. Some excerpts follow—but I suggest anyone really interested in the subject, read the full report.

“In Basra, the British appear to have given up on the idea of establishing a functioning state, ….. Four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, they are facing increasingly frequent and bloody attacks, and it is hard to imagine them remaining for long. Indeed, even were the coalition to re-engage in Basra, it already may well be too late to salvage the situation by creating a functional state. Over time, local government in the south could well resemble a small failed state; the government might collapse, a victim of the ruthless struggle between unregulated and uninhibited militias.”

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