Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reason to Be Skeptical About the Near Future of Iraq

A story in today's Washington Times highlights the power struggle going on in the southern Iraqi oil center of Basra, where British forces have essentially ceased interfering with the natural course of local politics. The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the biggest Shite party in Iraq and the one that controls most governorships in the south, is taking power from the previous incumbent governor, who is the local leader of the somewhat-reasonable Fadhila Party. At least, Fadhila is reasonable in comparison with the other off-shoot of the Sadrist movement, the Tayyera Sadriyyin, which is now busily implementing a program "modeled on that of Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Hezbollah in Lebanon??? Now there's a model for a post-occupation Iraq.

Take a look at one of my recommended books - Prince of the Marshes, Rory Stewart's excellent memoir of his time as a Coalition governorate advisor in southern Iraq - for some insight into this volatile region.

Parties battle in Basra
By David Enders
August 16, 2007

BASRA, Iraq — Governance has ground to a halt in this southern oil capital, with Basra's two largest parties arguing over the legitimacy of the provincial governor while militias and gangs take over the streets.

The bitter power struggle, gaining strength as British forces reduce their numbers and withdraw into their bases, has left grave doubts about what had been one of the most promising regions in post-invasion Iraq.

-snip -

Basra, meanwhile, had grown increasingly dangerous, with Westerners no longer daring to move about without heavy security.

The governor blamed the deteriorating security on Sheik al-Sadr's party and its affiliated militia, the Mahdi Army. But a spokesman for Tayyera Sadriyyin insisted that the party — which has taken over local services and policing in a program modeled on that of Hezbollah in Lebanon — simply seeks to "focus on the people."

Basra's troubles reverberate across Iraq's nine southern governorates, one of which is controlled by the Sadriyyin. Most of the other governorships are held by SIIC, whose leaders have sought to downplay tensions.

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