British to Pull Troops as Basra gets Bloodier

The Shi?ite militias infiltrating the Basra police force are dominating coalition troops and the Iraqi government as they execute violent and murderous acts at will. Its still hard to forget the brutal murder of five schoolteachers last month in front of hysterical children.

A suicide car bomb outside an apartment building containing members of the Iranian backed Badr brigade killed one child on Sunday. Among those who escaped the attack were wanted Shi’ite leader Hassan al-Rashid.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast, which occurred in the wake of Tony Blair’s claim last week that Iran and Lebanon?s Hezbollah are supplying high-powered roadside bombs to the Badr militia. Hezbollah issued a statement denouncing Blair’s assertions as “excuses to justify the inability of the occupation to confront the rise of resistance inside Iraq.”

Civil unrest in the area has spiraled out of control since September, when British troops were mobbed by 1,000 to 2,000 people wielding homemade bombs and grenades in a seemingly coordinated attack on the Basra streets.

“This was not a spontaneous public action,” said Maj. Andy Hadfield, a British company commander in the New York Times. “It was closely organized and closely coordinated by a series of agitators.”

The Jameat, who control the powerful internal affairs unit of the Iraqi police force, “consider themselves the No. 1 power in Basra,” according to one police commander. “They are policemen but they kill people,” Hakim, a Basra businessman told the Independent. “The British must bear much blame, they let these people into the police and then for a long time did nothing.”

Governor al-Wa’ili said Saturday that British forces continue to compromise security in the region by conducting raids and arrests on local police and militias without coordinating with Iraqi security forces. Basra citizens are now echoing his call for the removal of British troops.

Basra has only 2,500 to 3,000 police officers to augment an estimated 13,000 militiamen from the Iranian-backed Badr brigade, the SCIRI supported Fadila party and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia. There are 8,500 British troops in Iraq and 500 will be cut in November according to a statement by the British defence secretary, John Reid in Monday’s Guardian.

Recent polls show that over half of the British population would like to see the immediate withdrawal of British troops in Iraq. The rapid degression of the peaceful, British controlled Basra province into a flashpoint battleground for sectarian militias combined with the removal of troops would only open the door for continued torture and violence against civilians. “Combating the killing of innocent civilians is now the nation’s number one challenge,” Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kuba told The Independent. “This terrorism must be stopped and it is our right to protect ourselves and innocent citizens,” said Brig. John Lorimer, commander of the 12th Mechanised Brigade in southern Iraq.

Daily Telegraph reporter Adrian Blomfield has filed critical assessments of British troops in initial reports since recently becoming one of the first British reporters sent to Basra. “The Brits have done some great work but they’ve also misread the situation, which is kind of inexcusable?. We have raised our concerns [about Jameat] repeatedly and haven?t had the response we require,” said one diplomat.

Iraqi and British officials expect violence to escalatein advance of the October 15 constitutional referendum.

For intense analysis of this mess, read Gilbert Achcar’s editorial at Informed Comment.

Is the Miers nomination the beginning of the end for Bush’s coalition?

In the Sunday New York Times, Frank Rich says, “The Miers nomination, whatever its fate, will be remembered as the flashpoint when the faith-based Bush base finally started to lose faith in our propaganda president and join the apostate American majority.” Click here to read this if you’re not a Times subscriber.

Robert Novak mentions as in aside in his “Hurricane Harriet” article, that, in securing the support of 80 or so senators prior to announcing the Miers nomination, Bush gave the impression that his candidate would be federal Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan of California!

The Conservative Voice labels Bush a liar and in the same breath Pat Buchanan evokes JFK in questioning Bush’s logic in the nomination.

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post examines the issue of religion and why it is such an important factor to conservatives throughout the government. He uses examples such as Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, who declared that he wasn’t sure about Miers’ positions, but “I know the individual who led her to the Lord.”
Ann Coulter
OK, so Miers may be the smartest person George W. Bush has ever met, but even Ann Coulter says in a Sunday editorial “Mr. Bush has no right to say ‘Trust me,'” insisting that he would have been better off nominating his dog, Barney.

The sentiment throughout the Sunday Week in Review section of the NY Times seems to be that the Miers nomination “threatens to shatter” the Rove-designed Bush coalition.

Marvin and Peter Olasky, in a midweek editorial in the LA Times, later reprinted in other newspapers echo the sentiments of David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, who said after Miers’ nomination: “The pressures on a Supreme Court justice to shift leftward are intense.” Will Miers uphold Bush’s promise that “Harriet will not change.”

And finally, ConservativeHQ.com issued a poll of 83 conservative leaders and 83 percent of them said that Bush does not govern as a conservative should.

Dissecting President Bush and ex-VP Gore’s meaty speeches

Al Gore tore apart the media for failing to represent the founding father’s concept of “marketplace of ideas.” Gore fears that democracy is being put at risk by cable and satellite television in this must read.

George BushPresident Bush invoked September 11 several times, and shocked every secular and non-Christian nation in the world with his statements supporting his War in Iraq:

Click Transcript and video of Bush’s speech:

Today the White House followed up with its list of 10 terror plots “foiled”

William Arkin wonders if Bush and al Qaeda share the same objectives in his column in today’s Washington Post.

This morning’s New York Times editorial board feels insulted and utterly amazed by Bush’s rhetoric.

Der Spiegel encourages all to get creative with Bush’s “words from God.”

Would you know… Scott McLellan denies that Bush made the “God” statement, adding that these allegations are absurd. They probably were, but STILL.

The White House also apparently received a Happy Ramadan note from bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Lots to wrap our minds around this weekend.

President Bush said What?!?!?

Plenty of discussion continues today regarding the President’s one-hour press conference yesterday.

Many are hung up on his idea that the military will move in and secure things martially in the event of an avian flu outbreak. While Bush mentioned – and highly recommended – “Mr. Barry’s book on the influenza outbreak of 1918,” we must assume that, as per usual, Rumsfeld will want complete control over any plan (or lack thereof) to combat avian flu ? hence the reference to the military.

Bush remains insistent on the “progress” in Iraq, invoking the convenient “let me remind you that we are at war” phrase in his address – proving for certain that he doesn’t read the papers. His claim that 30 Iraqi troops are now in the lead (in defense of General Abizaid and General Casey’s claims that only one Iraqi batallion is battle-ready) only infers that they’re helpless pawns on the frontlines of stronger U.S. forces – probably the reason Iraqi troops face twice the amount of casualties as Americans. At least he’s conceding his Social Security reform plans, or so writes DailyKoz.

As for the Harriett “pit bull” Miers announcement, nobody says it quite like George Will in today’s WaPo.

On the gov’t deliberate process of removing and clearing damage caused by the hurricanes:

BUSH: How about getting this debris removed?? Now that you’re interested, I’ll tell you.

They didn’t want to be moving federally paid dozers on private property. Imagine cleaning up a debris and the person shows them, says, “Where’s my valuable china?” or, “Where’s my valuable art?”

Beware! The Shi’a are coming!

British troops have been rendered ineffective in southern Iraq while Shi’a militant armies battle each other for control of the oil-rich region.

Violence dramtically escalated in the streets of Basra amidst anti-British sentiment following the dramatic rescue of the two British Special Air Service (SAS) agents from Shi?a custody in mid-September (see previous post – Fallout from Basra). The Britons benign reputation since the beginning of the war in 2003 was immediately put in doubt. ?We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets,? Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, spokesman for the Mehdi Army told Al-Jazeera.

A senior official from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army stated al-Sadr’s intention to use the captured agents as barter for Sheikh Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad, two of al-Sadr?s men that were recently detained by the British in Basra. Al-Sadr, the radical Shi?ite cleric and commander of the 10,000 troop Mahdi Army that battled coalition forces in Najaf last year, has restated his authorization for capture of two Britons according to the Sunday Times. The Mahdi army official says two British private contractors working in Baghdad have already been pinpointed.

The Shi’ites have been widely regarded as helpless people with an intense inferiority complex despite the fact that they account for the majority of Iraqi citizens, Mahan Abedin, editor of Terrorism Monitor writes in the Monday Asia Times. A ?senior? Iraqi Shi’ite political figure warned on the Baztab news site that the suddenly hostile appearance of the British troops could bring Iraqi Shi’ites to the tipping point in the ?200-year? rage against British imperialism.

Al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army is battling the 12,000-strong Badr Brigade for control of the region. The more secular Badr militia is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq’s main Shi’ite political party.

Along with Iranian insurgents, members of these armies have infiltrated the British-trained Iraqi police force and security forces so as to isolate themselves from the U.S. led coalition as well as the Iraqi government in Baghdad. A “senior source in Basra” suggested to the Sunday London Telegraph that there are probably more Iranian spies than British troops in the city.

Iraq?s National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told the BBC, ?Iraqi security forces in general, and the police in particular, in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit, have been penetrated by some of the insurgents, some of the terrorists as well.?
University professors in Basra have told journalists off the record that ?secession of the Shi’ite south is not a far-fetched scenario,? reports the October 2 Washington Times.

Forgotten but not gone are the Kurds, who currently have a prominent presence in the Iraqi “government,” though they are not likely to maintain it. “There is no Iraq,” states one editorial on the Kurdistan Regional Government’s website. While U.S. troops continue fighting Sunni fundamentalists on the Syrian border, war is spiraling out of control in the southern region, with 70 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves up for grabs.

Sarah Meyer has put together a detailed, graphic timeline of recent events in Basra (link).