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As British Leave Basra, Militias Dig In

Spurious George

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As British leave Basra, militias dig in

Christian Science Monitor

August 28, 2007

The last contingent of British soldiers based in the center of this southern city will leave by Friday, says a senior Iraqi security official, adding that a deal has been struck with leaders of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to ensure their safe departure.

As they pull back to a base outside Basra, the British will leave a vital provincial capital in the throes of a turf battle between Shiite factions – one that Mr. Sadr's militia appears to be winning.

"By the end of August, there will be no presence for British forces at the palace or at the joint coordination center. Both will be in the hands of the Iraqi government," says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter. "I think it's best if they leave, because they did nothing to stop the militias, which were formed in the womb of their occupation."

A spokesman for the British military in Basra confirmed that a small force left the Provincial Joint Coordination Center (PJCC), site of a British-Iraqi security task force, Saturday. He declined comment on the timing of the pullout of 500 soldiers from a compound of four Saddam Hussein-era palaces that are located on the strategic Shatt al-Arab River. The buildings have been occupied by coalition troops since the start of the war in 2003.

Ahead of the pullout, an agreement between British and Iraqi authorities resulted in the transfer of more than two dozen Mahdi Army prisoners from British to Iraqi custody, according to the security official. They were then released by an Iraqi court in an attempt to pacify the militias during the highly symbolic handover of the palaces to Iraqis, he said. The British did not comment on any arrangements.


The Mahdi Army, which according to one estimate, numbers about 17,000 in Basra and is divided into about 40 sariyas (company-size military unit), is the strongest among its rivals in the militia-infiltrated police force and it has influence over vital sectors such as health, education, power distribution, and ports.

Although Basra, an economically important port city in a province with some of the largest oil deposits in the world, is considerably calmer and less violent than Baghdad, it faces a low-intensity, yet vicious, battle between the Mahdi Army and its many competitors that has spread fear and apprehension among many of the city's estimated 1.8 million residents.

One local official says about 5,000 assassinations have occurred inside the city in the past two years.



Iraq: British retreat descends into chaos as Shia militia occupy police centre

28 August 2007

Shia militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have scuppered an attempt by British forces to hand over the Basra joint police command centre to Iraqi police.

Iraqi police reportedly left when the Shia fighters arrived and began emptying the facility. According to witnesses, they made off with generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty - and were still in the centre yesterday evening.

The embarrassing episode, which comes as the British in Basra are preparing to move their remaining soldiers to the city airport as part of a planned withdrawal, once again highlights the strength of the militia in the city.

It further undermines Britain's hopes of a smooth transfer and gives the impression of a rout. Mr Sadr boasted in an interview with The Independent last week that the British had "given up" and were retreating because of the Iraqi resistance.

A small detachment of British soldiers working with the Iraqi police left the central Basra building on Saturday evening.

However, the British military disputed the reports about the Shia militiamen turning up yesterday, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who denied that Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army was there.



This, and other instances of troop withdrawls, appears to be a good indication of the "power vaccuum effect" that would take place in other parts of Iraq if foreign troops leave... some looting, militias openly claiming turf but no "horrible bloody massacre of death and all out destruction, oh my!" that certain fear mongers like to predict(wild guess) will happen if US troops withdraw.

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Hi laughter,

we've been in Iraq 4 years and in those four years we've been training the Iraqi police/army with the intention of handing over power, the British are not retreating we are simply moving to the airport and letting the Iraqi forces deal or sort out their own affairs, we need to let them stand on their own two feet to see if all the training as worked,

If the militia take over parts of the city, its up to the Iraqi forces to lead the way in taking the city back with the British troops acting in a support role incase any mission to take the city starts stalling a bit like a fall back option,

people can call it retreating if they want, but one day we'll leave,

im just waiting for the US media to blame the British because of their own failings,


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If the militia take over parts of the city, its up to the Iraqi forces to lead the way in taking the city back with the British troops acting in a support role incase any mission to take the city starts stalling a bit like a fall back option

It sounds good except these militias are the Iraqi forces in many cases, it has been said for some time now that the Iraqi security forces have been heavily infilitrated by groups like the Mahdi and the Badr yet the Iraqi forces are still seen to be the solution to the militia problem.

But yes in my mind the British did not retreat but they do want to eventually get out of Iraq, the article I posted had 'retreat' in the title, I had looked for another article that used different wording but I could not find one with the same information.

Also I see no reason to think that the predictions of all out death after US forces leave Iraq will take place.

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I think the Brits are right. we need to back off to let them sort it out for themselves. We can't baby sit nor do we have no right to control the type of government they want. And those militias are Shia just like the bulk of the population. as is Iran.

Will they align with Iran ? I don't see a reason why they wouldn't considering most of the Muslim world is Sunni. Then again they may not. It's a toss up.

would that be bad ? It doesn't have to be but it might be. Who's fault is it ? the moron who didn't think before he leaped. Who twisted and omitted intelligence . who broke international law as well as US law to preemptively strike.

Now we're stuck . In plain terms no one wants a big bad Iran , but that's pretty much what is happening. So it's either work with them to evolve diplomatically or be short sighted and go to another war that we are too stressed to fight both militarily and financially.

who ever is elected next president has alot of dancing to do. It won't be easy cleaning up Bushs mess.

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