Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Chaos in Basra

The British occupation of Basra in the south of Iraq has often been presented in the American media as being a much more controlled situation than the rest of Iraq (other than perhaps the Kurdish areas of the north). This was attributed to a more competent British occupation, a region that was dominated by the Shia Iraqis who were politically, religiously, and in some cases militarily organized (and also pleased to see Saddam Hussein out of power), and so on. In any case, whatever order existed there seems to be in serious danger of falling apart following the arrest by Iraqi authorities of two British soldiers and the ensuing British prison raid to free the two. Helen McCormack of the Independent writes:
In the rioting that ensued, British control of the city, in the Shia-dominated south of Iraq, began to look seriously under threat. Two Iraqis were reported dead in the rioting, with 15 Iraqis reported injured, along with three British soldiers....

As an uneasy peace was maintained in the city last night, all the indications were that yesterday's violence could be repeated today.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has only a small link on its front page with the headline "British Stage Prison Rescue of 2 Soldiers," which seems to me to hardly be the main story here. The prison rescue is hardly newsworthy compared to the rioting and anger that have surfaced in Basra in its wake. I'm heading over to Juan Cole's site to read more about this (he has quite a bit on the differing accounts of what led to the arrest of the two British soldiers, how the British reacted, what happened after that, etc.).

UPDATE [11:08 am]: Looks like the firebrand cleric is up to it again. That's right, Muqtada al-Sadr and his movement seems to be heavily wrapped up in the anti-British antagonism and anger in Basra. Go read Juan Cole, for real. He's got a much better handle of what forces are at play here.

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