Did the Brits Lose Southern Iraq?
Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East military expert and former national security aide to John McCain , says London's drawdown only cements Shi'ite power in southern Iraq. Shi'ite police in the region have been conducting sometimes deadly sect-based operations against Sunni residents for months, he says, and local politics have devolved into "a fractured mess" delinked from national political parties. "The coming British cuts in many ways reflect the political reality that the British `lost' the south more than a year ago," Cordesman, who has traveled to the region frequently, writes in a Wednesday analysis from his office at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The Shi'ites will take over, Iranian influence will probably expand, and more Sunnis, Christians, and other minorities will leave."And this "success" will spread to the remainder of Iraq.
In fact, Cordesman fears that the brutal Shi'ite control of Basra and southern Iraq will spread to greater Baghdad and make the already bad situation there that much worse. Shi'ite militias in the capital appear to be standing down and not challenging U.S. and Iraqi forces as they attempt to quell the bombings and bloodshed that have gripped the city for the past year. That leaves insurgent Sunnis as the main target of the effort. "In effect," Cordesman says, "both the U.K. and the U.S. may end up acting to expand Shi'ite influence in very different ways." That, of course, would expand the influence of Shi'ite Iran in Iraq, and unsettle majority-Sunni states like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.The calm before the storm.
Cordesman's bleak outlook comes on the heels of a recently released study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that warns that democracy is a long way from coming to the southern part of the country. In their report, "The Calm Before the Storm: The British Experience in Southern Iraq," Michael Knights and Ed Williams observe that greater Basra "has suffered one of the worst reversals of fortune of any area in Iraq since the fall of Saddam's regime." Once a cosmopolitan city and the center of Iraq's oil industry, the city — under British control — has become a violent maelstrom of warring Islamic elements. While the British initially could patrol the city without helmets, now they travel in heavily armored vehicles. "Basra is increasingly a kleptocracy used by Islamist militias to fill their war chests," the report says.The British experience in Basra is just one example of how the Iraq war has been quarterbacked by delusional people who had no knowledge of the region. How can we forget this bit of delusional neocon wisdom?
"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular."
April 4th, 2003
Patrick Cockburn from the Independent agrees that it is a defeat as does Chris at AmericaBlog.
Patrick Cockburn from the Independent has even more on the British Defeat.
Revealed: The true extent of Britain's failure in Basra
The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq.
In a comment entitled "The British Defeat in Iraq" the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.
Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that "did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighbourhood level when British troops were not present". As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the so-called "Sadrist" factions.
Why is the British Army still in south Iraq and what good does it do there? The suspicion grows that Mr Blair did not withdraw them because to do so would be too gross an admission of failure and of soldiers' lives uselessly lost. It would also have left the US embarrassingly bereft of allies.