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.

One Reply to “British to Pull Troops as Basra gets Bloodier”

  1. Thomas Friedman in the 12 Oct NYTimes, on the scale of the civil war between Sunni’s and Shi’ites:

    If I were editor of this newspaper, I would have led last Thursday’s issue with the news report, under a big headline, saying that a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber attacked the Shiite mosque in Hilla, Iraq, on Wednesday – the Shiites’ first day of Ramadan – and blew himself up, killing at least 25 worshipers and wounding more than 87.

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