British Pullout Leaves Basra in Chaos

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday that “Britain will cut its forces in Iraq by half in the spring.” Thus further “shrinking the commitment of America’s leading coalition partner to just 2,500 troops.” The remaining troops will be “engaged mainly in “training and mentoring” of Iraqi forces.” Troops from the UK “have been based solely in and around Basra,” Britain’s move to cut troops in Basra, “comes at a time when at least four Shia militias are fighting over the city, which is surrounded by most of the nation’s tremendous oil reserves and provides Iraq’s only gateway to the sea.”

The British recently removed their last garrison from within the city to their main base at Basra Airport, saying the Iraqi army was ready to assume control. But gainsaying that claim was the fact that before the troops pulled out, all British and U.S. diplomats in the city were evacuated to the airbase.

“Competing Iraqi factions are currently fighting an intense behind-the-scenes battle for Basra,” said Reidar Visser, a Norwegian expert on Basra, in a Web posting yesterday. “The main reason is oil: Basra has more of it than any other place in Iraq. In fact, more than 80 percent of the oil in the Shiite areas of Iraq is concentrated at the head of the Gulf, near Basra.”

The Bush administration continues to spin propaganda that the “surge” is working and that “southern Iraq is relatively stable.” However, as Newsday reports, “there are growing signs of an incipient civil war between competing Shia factions” in southern Iraq. Clearly, as we’ve kown for a very long time Bush’s “surge” is failing. Could it be… Is it possible… “Is the end near?

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