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Thread: Basra transition

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    Default Basra transition

    CSIS, 21 Feb 07: The British Defeat in the South and the Uncertain Bush Strategy in Iraq: Oil Spots, Ink Blots, White Space, or Pointlessness?
    ...In practice, any form of US action that ends in some form of “victory” means finding a strategy that allows the US to withdraw most US forces from an Iraq that is stable enough to have reduced internal violence to low levels that can be controlled by local forces, that is secure against its neighbors, that is politically and economically unified enough to function and develop as a state, and which is pluralistic enough to preserve the basic rights of all of its sectarian and ethnic factions.

    Things in Iraq may have deteriorated to the point where none of the “least bad” options now available allow the US to achieve these goals. From a perceptual viewpoint, “victory” may already be impossible because most of the people in Iraq, the region, and Arab and Muslim worlds will probably view the US effort as a failure and as a partial defeat even if the US can leave Iraq as a relatively stable and secure state at some point in the future. The perceived cost of the US-led invasion and occupation has simply been too high in terms of local opinion...

    ...The British may not have been defeated in a purely military sense, but lost long ago in the political sense if "victory" means securing the southeast for some form of national unity. Soft ethnic cleansing has been going on in Basra for more than two years, and the south has been the scene of the less violent form of civil war for control of political and economic space that is as important as the more openly violent struggles in Anbar and Basra.

    As a result, the coming British cuts in many ways reflect the political reality that the British "lost" the south more than a year ago. The Shi'ites will takeover, Iranian influence will probably expand, and more Sunnis, Christians, and other minorities will leave. British action will mean more pressure for federation and separatism, but local power struggles are more likely to be between Shi'ite factions than anything else....

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    Default Basra transition

    ICG, 25 Jun 07: Where is Iraq Heading? Lessons from Basra
    ...As the U.S. considers plans for Baghdad and other parts of the country, the lessons are clear. First, the answer to Iraq’s horrific violence cannot be an illusory military surge that aims to bolster the existing political structure and treats the dominant political parties as partners. Secondly, violence is not solely the result of al-Qaeda-type terrorism or sectarian hostility, however costly both evidently are. Thirdly, as Basra clearly shows, violence has become a routine means of social interaction utilised by political actors doubling as militiamen who seek to increase their share of power and resources.

    Basra teaches that as soon as the military surge ends and coalition forces diminish, competition between rival factions itself will surge. In other words, prolonging the same political process with the same political actors will ensure that what is left of the Iraqi state gradually is torn apart. The most likely outcome will be the country’s untidy break-up into myriad fiefdoms, superficially held together by the presence of coalition forces....

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    ...Basra teaches that as soon as the military surge ends and coalition forces diminish, competition between rival factions itself will surge....
    The Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus, 6 Jul 07:

    The Militia Politics of Basra
    Basra, the second largest and the richest city in Iraq, is at the brink of a major economic and political meltdown. Unless Baghdad succeeds in reaching a compromise over the country's governmental apparatus (especially over the issue of federalism), the southern city may become the greatest threat to the future of post-Baathist Iraq. Such a threat lies mainly in a struggle for power between Shiite militias and tribal forces who compete for control over oil resources, territorial domination and public capital (hospitals and schools), which are all leading to an erosion of security in a city that is the source of Iraq's economic life. Although much of this turmoil is a reflection of the unstable nature of the transitional process, the current situation in Basra may represent a future scenario for Iraq that is made up of political factionalism and devoid of a functional government.

    At the center of Basra's meltdown lies the ongoing conflict between different Shiite factions, mainly vying for control over Basra's energy industry and oil smuggling. Domination over local governance through confrontation, and at times violence, has become the routine method of conducting politics in a city that appears to be breaking apart into territories governed by different militias. Such political conflict, however, also includes competing visions of post-Baathist Iraq, as each Shiite militia advocates a particular ideological agenda (regionalist, nationalist and sectarian), while seeking popular support from various segments of the Shiite community in Basra and other southern cities.....

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Basra transition

    There is a small piece in today's Blatimore Sun (also reachable on the E-Bird)on the problems with pulling out of Basra as the Brits transition it to ISF. We should watch this one close.

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    Default Here is the link?

    Do you mean this?

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nat...,3139234.story

    I have been watching Basra for some time. I blogged on it here:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/...of-engagement/

    The Brits are in a tizzy about Cordesman calling the disaster in Basra a "defeat." So be it. Call it what it is.

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    Default BASRAH--some perspective (Iran, etc)

    To the readers of this Forum:

    Thought you'd find these observations of interest since they are from a secular Shia university professor living in Basrah. I've been in regular contact with him by mail (since 1992) and email (2002-EARLY 2003; fall 2003 on) and met him 2 yrs ago in Canada at a conference. He was mentioned by name & quoted in a spr 05 NYT article of the restoration of marshes in southern iraq)

    He was concerned about the LACK of action by our British allies VERY EARLY ON (late 2003) and warned me in early 2004 about Iran.

    Here are some email excerpts:

    (I have corrected some spelling, grammar—and cut out text not relevant to Iran).

    12-12-05:

    “I think the balance is changing against clerics and religious parties. They will have a share but not like January. They are putting tremendous effort to win. People don’t like them in the south. THEY WILL WIN BECAUSE OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE (my emphasis in caps). We need a change. It will be a disaster if they win”.

    12-13-2005:
    Two days ago a prof of soil sciences have been kidnapped and yesterday they found his body killed. These gangs came to him at midnight and take him to his death. I know the fellow... I believe his crime was to be a Dean of the College of Agriculture seven years ago. It is a chaotic country! MAYBE I AM ON THE LIST PREPARED BY PRO-IRAN GROUPS FOR KILLING. I am going to buy a gun to defend myself and my family. I feel really bad and sad. We need somebody to rescue us from this horrible situation."

    2-22-06:

    “We are safe till now. We live day by day. The British troops at last wake up. I wonder if they have a chance to achieve things. They left Basrah so long to be very dangerous even to them. BASRAH IT WILL BE THE BATTLEPLACE WITH IRAN. God bless and save us. After the British caught several police men the wave of killing stopped—hope forever. BUT EVERY PERSON KNOWS EVERY MONTH NEW LIST OF NAMES TO BE KILLED COME FROM IRAN. They used certain cars, sometimes police cars,and police men perform the assassination”

    1/14/07 “We are living under constant bombardment of Al Mahdi army shelling to the British and American consulates. By the way we are under the regime of Shiite Taleban. It is the same as that of Afghanistan with no big difference.”



    7/18/07: “i did not told you about what we face during June in Basrah. Previously I you told we have the intention to leave our house to another one more safer but it is very difficult. In first week of June mortar shell fell in front of garage ,thanks god the shrapnel hit the iron door, I depot of fuels for the generator and barrel of kerosene beside the car full with gas., The worse turn up during the third week of June when mortar shell hit the second floor roof. thank god only the rim and water storage, That happened at night . The house was full of smoke,water and dust coinciding with power cut ie in darkness. Imagine the situation. Now no bombs we are feel safe for a while [note: in Syria].


    Another "penpal" just got out of Basrah to Kuwait, but is having trouble getting his family out.

    From 2/3/05--Much more hope and optimism----now lost
    DEAR STEVE THE FEAR IS AWAY ANDI TOOK ALL FAMILY FOR ELECTION EVEN THEIR IS A THREAT OF BOMBS AND TERRORIST BUT NEVER THE LESS WE WENT AND VOTE AT THE END IT IS BEUATIFUL TO FEEL FREE TO CHOOSE WHAT ONE THINK IT IS RIGHT, WE THANKS U.S. FOR THAT AND HOPE TO KEEP HELPING IRAQI PEOPLE IN PROCCESS OF DEMOCRACY WITH OUT U.S. WE WILL RETUR BACK TO DANGER AND DARK AGES .WE ARE SAFE FOR TIME BEING HOPING THE SITUATION WILL BE IMPROVED .

    Such a depressing change .

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    Default Basra is astride our supply line.

    When the Brits pull out, I don't see any choice but for us to go down there and secure it.

    Cordesman's assessment was right. The response of the British Army and the commentariat surrounding the Brown Government was to call Anthony Cordesman a right-wing neocon.

    Anything but.....

    Question: will we have enough Mojo in Anbar to pull forces from there to go down south? It will definitely have to be an overwatch kind of thing, as I think the Iranians have decided that they want to get a stranglehold on our supply lines.

    The Brits are great and all, but the Brown Government wants out, ASAP.
    "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

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    There is probably a decision point about when & if to step in and reinforce Iraqi Security Forces. I'd think it would have several COAs on how to do so.

    However it may mean allocating resources that might have been planned for elsewhere.

    I just don't know enough about BASRA regarding its transition. It certainly brings up some of the problems of working with partners (any partners) who have their own political timetable - sooner or later partners must consider their other interests, commitments and for democracies especially - public will.

    I don't know if you can hold up what happens in Basra as a model for future transitions - each city seems to be unique. However, I do think there are probably some lessons to be considered as we watch it. If it does go badly, the first questions may be why and if anything that was not done or was done wrong could have prevented it from going bad - somethings are problems with solutions - somethings are just conditions. That might lead us to a whole host of other questions that inform any larger scale transition plan.

    The problem with any plan that calls for a vacuous style withdrawal is there is no flexibility to adjust to changing conditions because it would be difficult to really understand the causal relationship between events since everything goes at once. This is why a phased withdrawal that is contingent on setting at least some local, provincial and national conditions is paramount to reducing the amount of violence/friction/etc. It is critical. A transition should not be a source of additional instability that provides the enemy an opportunity to easily fill the vacuum left behind.

    We've identified that we have long term vital interests in the Middle East for a number of reasons. Even if tomorrow we (the U.S.) somehow found an alternative energy source it would be sometime before we could replace our hydro-carbon industries, and far longer for evolving world economies to do so. Since our economy is tied to the global economy, it will continue to be vital to us to foster stability in the region. Iraq is a piece of that.

    I hope nobody takes this as a swipe at the Basra transition - I'm just thinking how this event can inform the larger transition plan, and how this is (and will always be) also a civil-military issue for our policy makers who may not understand the fog, friction & chance associated with such decisions.

    Articulating this in September is going to be a real challenge. We have some good folks in Congress. I hope they understand that as Gen Petreaus answers their questions he is providing them with his best military advice to achieve U.S. policy interests, and safeguard our most precious resources.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    British troops on verge of long-awaited pullout from Basra - GUARDIAN, 23 Aug.

    Britain's long-awaited and much-postponed pull-out from the Basra palace, its last remaining base in the Iraqi city, is imminent, sources have told the Guardian.


    The move, which is symbolically significant and will improve the safety of British troops, is expected to take place within the next two weeks and may come within days, officials say. An announcement will be made by the Iraqis.

    The decision to hand over the palace to Iraqi forces comes at a time of growing criticism by elements in the US military of Britain's role in southern Iraq. The criticism is dismissed by British military commanders ...

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    Militia moves on police center as Brits leave - AP, 27 Aug.

    Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.
    Police left the building when the militiamen, loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, arrived, the witnesses said.

    The British military disputed the reports, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who has said the Mahdi Army was not there.

    But the witnesses said the Mahdi Army emptied the building — taking generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty — and remained there in the early evening.

    The British military had maintained a small number of soldiers at the command center to help train Iraqi police.

    However, the British withdrew Saturday night “in the framework of the plan for the handover” of British positions in the city to Iraqi control, said British spokesman Maj. Matthew Bird ...

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    Default Failure of the British approach?

    Here's a question: is the British retreat from Basra, which is certainly what it looks like, a serious blow to the British counter-insurgency approach, supposedly perfected over decades in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Aden, Malaysia, and many other theaters? Softly softly, berets instead of helmets, and rapid enlistment and cession of control to local elements seems to have worked no better than much heavier U.S. tactics in Anbar, and indeed, probably worse.

    The Financial Times covered this to some extent:
    http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage...9599778&page=1

    "A soft approach to the population when you are talking about counterinsurgency is one thing, but it doesn't work when you [are up against] a large and dedicated military force," he says. The model that worked in Northern Ireland would not work in southern Iraq because of the thousands of militiamen who were challenging UK forces: "There were several hundred activists in Northern Ireland – that was not what you had in southern Iraq."
    Seems to me, and maybe this is stating the obvious, that it's further proof that almost all of what we talk about here, like "population-centric" vs. "enemy-centric operations," levels of firepower, role of indigenous security forces, etc., depends almost entirely on the situation. Maybe there are some broad counter-insurgency principles, from the likes of Thompson, Galula, Kitson and others, but even these seem to make a lot more sense in the classical Communist insurgency case.






    Of course, the article also says this:

    The actions of UK troops also had on occasions inflamed local sentiment, the two men said in a report on the British experience in southern Iraq. In Maysan province, one of the four for which the UK had responsibility, UK forces upset locals by their efforts to collect heavy weapons. Elsewhere, house searches for explosives using dogs caused considerable anger.

    "Despite their reputation for 'community soldiering', British soldiers had crossed local red lines without knowing it," the two authors concluded. They "did not know enough about the cultural environment [they] were operating in".
    Last edited by Granite_State; 08-28-2007 at 01:14 AM. Reason: Posted page 2 of link initially

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    All I can say is that instability in the Basrah-Nasiriyah-Rumalliyah area scares me.

    I fought for Safwan Hill (just SW of Basrah on the border) and passed through the area twice in mid 2003 and 2005. Mahdi control would be a very bad thing.

    The one plus is that much of the area is very barren, which makes for better kinetic (i that's what it takes) operations should folks decide to get uppity in the area.

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    As British leave Basra, militias dig in - CSMONITOR, 28 Aug.

    The last contingent of British soldiers based in the center of this southern city will leave by Friday, says a senior Iraqi security official, adding that a deal has been struck with leaders of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to ensure their safe departure.

    As they pull back to a base outside Basra, the British will leave a vital provincial capital in the throes of a turf battle between Shiite factions – one that Mr. Sadr's militia appears to be winning.

    "By the end of August, there will be no presence for British forces at the palace or at the joint coordination center. Both will be in the hands of the Iraqi government," says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter. "I think it's best if they leave, because they did nothing to stop the militias, which were formed in the womb of their occupation." A spokesman for the British military in Basra confirmed that a small force left the Provincial Joint Coordination Center (PJCC), site of a British-Iraqi security task force, Saturday. He declined comment on the timing of the pullout of 500 soldiers from a compound of four Saddam Hussein-era palaces that are located on the strategic Shatt al-Arab River. The buildings have been occupied by coalition troops since the start of the war in 2003.

    Ahead of the pullout, an agreement between British and Iraqi authorities resulted in the transfer of more than two dozen Mahdi Army prisoners from British to Iraqi custody, according to the security official. They were then released by an Iraqi court in an attempt to pacify the militias during the highly symbolic handover of the palaces to Iraqis, he said. The British did not comment on any arrangements ...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Hey GS,

    Here's a question: is the British retreat from Basra, which is certainly what it looks like, a serious blow to the British counter-insurgency approach, supposedly perfected over decades in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Aden, Malaysia, and many other theaters? Softly softly, berets instead of helmets, and rapid enlistment and cession of control to local elements seems to have worked no better than much heavier U.S. tactics in Anbar, and indeed, probably worse.
    I think its a fair question. No strategy or tactic should be applied on the basis of where or when it worked last until the current conditions have been considered in order to make adjustments.

    I think though this is more of a matter of GB's domestic politics interrupting a strategy that requires considerable time as the problems which bred the violence and insurgency are uncovered, addressed and given time to be worked out. I watched a program on PBS last night called the "Anti-Americans" (filmed a couple of years ago) where British, French and Polish citizens were asked to remark on the U.S. At the time of the filming, I got the feeling the British did not see their interests in being part of a coalition in Iraq. Its a difficult thing to articulate why a long term commitment is required to the average citizen of any country. Its also difficult if your military is not quite as large - our Marines are larger then most countries entire military.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    British public opinion was always against the war in Iraq. It's hard to remember nowadays, but pretty much the only countries where public opinion was in favor of the original invasion were the United States, Israel, and Kuwait.

    Given the current American policy of attempting to "co-opt" Sunni insurgent groups and tribal militias, I am less eager to criticize the British so much for essentially pursuing the same policy --- advanced by a year or so --- in Basra. Yes, they have handed over power in the south to a conglomeration of Shia tribal and party militias that will fight for power once the British have gone. What exactly do you think is going to happen in Diyala and Baghdad when the U.S. draws down the surge forces next year? Does anyone seriously think that AQI is the only thing that keeps Iraqis apart?

    That the British position looks endangered is hardly surprising, but does anyone believe that the 1920 Revolution Brigades or the Anbar tribes have suddenly converted into believers in the American project in Iraq?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granite_State View Post
    Here's a question: is the British retreat from Basra, which is certainly what it looks like, a serious blow to the British counter-insurgency approach, supposedly perfected over decades in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Aden, Malaysia, and many other theaters? Softly softly, berets instead of helmets, and rapid enlistment and cession of control to local elements seems to have worked no better than much heavier U.S. tactics in Anbar, and indeed, probably worse.

    The Financial Times covered this to some extent:
    http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage...9599778&page=1

    Seems to me, and maybe this is stating the obvious, that it's further proof that almost all of what we talk about here, like "population-centric" vs. "enemy-centric operations," levels of firepower, role of indigenous security forces, etc., depends almost entirely on the situation. Maybe there are some broad counter-insurgency principles, from the likes of Thompson, Galula, Kitson and others, but even these seem to make a lot more sense in the classical Communist insurgency case.

    Of course, the article also says this:
    While I agree with much of what the Brits advocate in COIN and irregular warfare, they are not perfect and the ones I listen to, say that up front. I would say the greatest factor undermining British ops and expectations in southern Iraq was the issue of duration, complimented by British history in Iraq. It was obvious to the Iraqis and the Brits alike that the UK's forces would not be staying. Up until recent drawdowns, British forces were fairly easily accepted as the Shias waited for them to exit. Certainly there was a very dark side to Shia corruption and militia activities in the south but compared to Anbar, there was no comparison. I would characterize what is happening now as clearing the battleground for what is coming, a settling of scores and levelin of ambitions until a leader or two is left standing, one probably with ties to Iran.

    Finally I would say that the British approach to COIN is built on the assumption that the peoples in question do indeed see themsleves as a people defined by the nation-state versus tribe against a religious matrix. The Brit approach and ours is supposedly shoring up the legitimacy of the government to govern; the Shia have not accepted the central government as the legitimate holder of such power.

    Best

    Tom

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default British Troops Pull Out of Their Last Base in Basra City

    3 September London Times - British Troops Pull Out of Their Last Base in Basra City by Michael Evans.

    The final 500 British troops in Basra city last night withdrew under the cover of darkness from their base, a former palace of Saddam Hussein.

    The highly symbolic pullout from Basra Palace began at about 10pm local time. Residents then reported seeing helicopters overhead and a convoy of eight tanks, six Land Rovers and five other large vehicles, possibly armoured personnel carriers, approaching the main British airport base from the palace shortly before midnight.

    The streets of the city were largely deserted, and the convoy of troops from the 4th Battalion The Rifles was not attacked. Troops at the palace suffered daily attacks over the summer, with nine members of The Rifles being killed since May 21.

    Basra airport will now be the only base for the 5,500 soldiers still serving in southern Iraq. With the palace base handed to the Iraqis, the Government is expected to announce that the British presence in Iraq will be reduced by 500 within the next few weeks...

    The pullout came as two of Britain’s most influential generals during the Iraq war delivered scathing attacks on the Americans for their handling of the campaign after Saddam’s defeat. Major-General Tim Cross, who supervised reconstruction projects alongside his American counterparts in 2003, joined General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the Army, in criticising the US for ignoring British advice. General Cross, a Royal Engineer, is retired but he was a hugely respected figure in the Army and had unrivalled experience in dealing with postwar nation-building. He revealed that he gave advice to Don-ald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary, about the size of the force needed to tackle the challenges after Saddam’s downfall, but was ignored.

    The attacks by General Jackson, the former Chief of the General Staff, in his autobiography, and General Cross, in an interview with the Sunday Mirror, have laid bare the anger felt by the British military over the way that Mr Rumsfeld dismissed all the warning signs of a potential disaster in Iraq.

    Although much has been said about the failures of the American strategy in Iraq, not least by Sir Jeremy Green-stock, the former British Ambassador at the United Nations and later Tony Blair’s special envoy to Baghdad, the strong criticism from the two generals has added to the growing sense of a rift between Washington and London...

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Smuggling thrives in Basra - IWPR, 7 Sep.

    Police and government officials are accused of taking a cut of the lucrative oil smuggling business run by clans and overseen by militia groups in the southern city of Basra.

    Rival Shia groups have divided up control of the city’s resources - including the country’s only seaport as well as its largest oilfields – in a precarious power arrangement which could implode at any time. The warring militias control the illegal oil exports from Basra, the gateway to Iran and the Gulf states, and are reportedly linked to global networks.

    Maritime police complain they lack resources to capture the smugglers, but others accuse police of cooperating with mafia gangs to smuggle oil. Some local officials say they are under orders not to arrest gang members because of their links to the authorities and the militias.

    Analysts blame smuggling for causing high inflation in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, with the prices of everyday products soaring and living conditions deteriorating for most of inhabitants.

    The Rumaila oil fields south of Basra are said to produce 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, of which 400,000 barrels are for domestic consumption and 1.2 million are exported ...
    Excellent, detailed article outlining the Shi'i party factions in Basra and the mechanics of oil smuggling, which also involves corruption on the Iranian side of the border.

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    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    How soon do we expect to see the full withdrawal of British troops, now that they're at the airport?

    And what do we expect MNF to do about the British departure? Surely they're not planning on ceding the southern portion of the country to the Mahdi Army or whatever group of bozos is currently licking their chops in anticipation, right?

    Not that I know what forces are available. . .

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Default Basra experiment

    Thanks for the link Tequila.
    Very interesting little article and insight in to the endemic corruption and the way it relates to the groups jockeying for power and influence. Basra, as the first area in which the fledgling Iraqi institutions have been given a go at running things for themselves, is going to be an interesting experiment. Unfortunately it is not the ideal place to conduct this experiment as it is so important to the Iraqi economy and to supply lines for forces up country. Apart form that I suspect it will be fairly typical in the way power will be divided up between the Government, Army, Police, Militia groups and local families/clans etc. The only major factor not acting in this arena is inter Sunni/Shia/Kurd factors which will have to be overlaid in some other areas. British forces might be invited in to assist in the removal of extra-national players trying to muscle in on the action but I very much doubt any interference with the gravy train would be brooked. In this particular situation a coast guard presence may work but the smugglers would probably find a work around or return to direct assault on forces operating them. Attempts to rid an entire country of an entrenched system of graft and patronage is a little beyond the mandate or capabilities of the coalition forces and the advantages of an honest economic and governmental system is something they will have to workout for themselves over the next century or two.
    Last edited by JJackson; 09-11-2007 at 12:09 AM.

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