Despite its years-long efforts to stabilize Basra in southern Iraq, the Royal Army is watching Shiite militias fill the power vacuum being created as their troops draw down by escalating their rivalries in a violent effort to control the region's rich oil resources.
And while you're toweling yourself off after that shower, prepare yourself an even colder one:
was once considered a success story, just like the White House is wishfully putting out the message that the surge also will be a success. Basra
But the pattern emerging in Basra may well be the same nationally if elements of the Shiite-dominated national government (which has no Sunni ministers at the moment, as well as a Parliament away at summer camp) turn on one another when U.S. troops begin withdrawing.
This is because, for the umpteenth forking time, a military success is empty without a political success, and political success becomes more elusive the longer that
troops – the Mother of All Flash Points – remain in country. U.S.
Let’s review the British phased withdrawal plan in
Former British PM Tony Blair peddled the line that it's "mission accomplished," and a White House desperate for good news enthusiastically endorsed that assessment, but this outbreak of feel good-ism masked a couple of realities:
First, Blair's popularity and that of the Labor Party, like President Bush and the Republican Party, was in the WC.
The biggest reason for these reversals of fortune is that a war that Bush started but has been unable to finish was been backed to the hilt by Blair and is now widely viewed as an unmitigated disaster. (Some 165 Brits have died in the conflict, a far cry from the 3,679 Americans, but substantially more any of the 18 other Coalition nations, which have suffered a total of 129 deaths.)
Second, a British withdrawal has been all but inevitable since General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, warned publicly last October that the presence of
The biggest concern about the drawdown is that it's not likely that the burghers of
Write Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks in The Washington Post:
"Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by 'the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,' a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.
"After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April 2003, British forces took control of the region, and the cosmopolitan port city of"But 'it's hard now to paint
thrived with trade, arts and universities. As recently as February, Vice President Cheney hailed Basra as a part of Basra 'where things are going pretty well.' Iraq as a success story,' said a senior Basra official in U.S. with long experience in the south. Instead, it has become a different model, one that U.S. officials with experience in the region are concerned will be replicated throughout the Iraqi Shiite homeland from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. A recent series of war games commissioned by the Pentagon also warned of civil war among Shiites after a reduction in Baghdad forces." U.S.