Wednesday, September 21, 2005

British Pull-Out Delayed

The Guardian's reporting that Britain's hope to start a gradual pull-out of Iraq has been smashed with the latest troubles in Basra.
The fragile situation in the south of the country was dramatically exposed when Iraqi police arrested two undercover British SAS soldiers on Monday and handed them over to militiamen before they were rescued. The incident came after months of concern that local security forces in the region had been infiltrated by radicals.

Senior defence officials admitted yesterday that far from improving, the security situation in southern Iraq might well get worse over the next few months. They referred in particular to the Mahdi army, a militia headed by the radical Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.

"Sadr is positioning himself as an Iraqi nationalist," a senior British defence source said. He added: "People want to use violence to create political power."

In July, the then commander of British forces in southern Iraq, Major General Jonathan Riley, predicted that Britain would hand over "two provinces, Maysan and al-Muthanna, this year and [the] other two [Dhi Qar and Basra] next year."

That hope was reflected in a secret memo sent by John Reid, the defence secretary, in July to cabinet colleagues. However, this is now regarded by military commanders and diplomats as hopelessly optimistic.
For much of the occupation the British controlled south was much more peaceful than the U.S. controlled central Iraq. Not anymore as more radical elements like Sadr are turning Basra toward Shia fundamentalism. More evidence of this radical surge has been the brutal slainings of two journalists, one an Iraqi working for the NYTs and an American, Thomas Vincent, that had published a NYT's op-ed critical of the occupation's inability to stop the increasing fundamentalism of Basra and the Mahdi army's ability to infiltrate the police forces.

And for argument's sake, let's take a look at who exactly this Iraqi journalist was. Via the NYTs:
Mr.[Fakher] Haider, who was born in Basra, fought in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein after the Persian Gulf war. He said that he later escaped to Kuwait and was lucky to avoid being killed when Mr. Hussein's forces regained control of southern Iraq.

During the uprising, Mr. Haider risked his life to help the daughter of a local Baath Party official secure a decent burial for her brother, who had been killed by rebelling Shiites. After the Baathists returned to power, the official spared his life for that reason, Mr. Haider said.

Before starting his work for The Times in 2003, Mr. Haider worked for years at a fertilizer factory in Basra, said his brother, Muhammad Haider. In addition to his wife, Mr. Haider is survived by three children, ages 5, 7 and 9.
Is this who we are to leave Iraq to? People whose religious fanaticism, whether Shia or Sunni, and thrist for power lead them to murder those who promote a new Iraq, one where your religion or party affiliation doesn't lead to a vicious, lonely death.

Another thing for those that think we should leave Iraq to Iraqis to ponder. There are tyrannies worse than an American or a British occupation. If the US-UK coalition does indeed pull-out of Iraq early and leave a vacuum of power to be filled, I wonder what the fringe, both left and right, will say when Iraq becomes the next Sudan or reverts back to the days of dungeon and dictatorship.