Foreign Policy Blogs

Basra's continuing deterioration, Part I

What first caught my eye was an article in the UK Daily Mail yesterday (which I think is little more than a tabloid, but occasionally they have a gem or two) that said in its headline ‘Rocket attacks dent hopes of bringing British troops home from Basra‘. As readers of this blog know, we have chronicled the Basra situation before, here and here. This is a very interesting dynamic, as there is a lot of intra-Shi’ite rivalries going on. In September, British troops pulled out of Basra city and retreated to the outskirts of the city, where they remain on the grounds of the airport. They are there and continue to train Iraqi forces. The Brits were forced out by rocket fire last year, and only symbolically handed over power of the province to the Iraqis in December. They had been out for quite some time. With the violence raging in Basra between Iraqi security forces and the militias today, it is an important time to examine this in more depth.

The United Kingdom has been telling its constituency for months that they will significantly reduce their presence in Iraq, and will cut their troop levels from 4100 to 2,500 by April 2008. Secretary of Defense Des Browne has said that many soldiers will be sent home as promised, but they will definitely be replaced. The draw-down is not happening because of the security situation is spiraling out of control, according to all reports. The British are sustaining deadly rocket attacks after a lull in violence after they pulled out of the city in September. Despite being outside the city, the last British base is still facing hostile fire from militants causing coalition casualties. In an article posted by The Independent, Iraqi commanders are planning a major offensive against Shi’ite militants this summer. The British most likely will NOT participate in the offensive, but will provide back up and support if and when needed.

In Part II, I will discuss further the nature of the factions and criminals that are involved in the takeover of Basra, and why Basra is an important part of the country.