The British withdrawal from the South will likely be accelerated by new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is set to take over for the disgraced Tony Blair next month. It hardly matters because the Iranians are so deeply entrenched now that nothing short of a massive invasion and bloody house-to-house fighting can get them out of southern Iraq.
You can't move far in Basra without bumping into some evidence of the Iranian influence on the city. Even inside the British consulate compound visitors are advised not to use mobile phones because, as the security official put it,"the Iranians next door are listening to everything".
In the Basra market Iranian produce is everywhere, from dairy products to motorcycles and electronic goods. Farsi phrase books are sold in bookshops and posters of Ayatollah Khomeini are on the walls.
But Iranian influence is also found in more sinister places. Abu Mujtaba described the level of cooperation between Iran and his units. His account echoed what several militia men in other parts of Iraq have told me.
His assessment was shared by both the general and the intelligence official. "Iran has not only infiltrated the government and security forces through the militias and parties they nurtured in Iran, they managed to infiltrate Moqtada's lot, by providing them with weapons," the general told me. "And some disgruntled and militias were over taken by Iran and provided with money and weapons."
In years to come, historians will judge our removal of the Hussein regime and subsequent absorption of the country into the Iranian sphere of influence as a massive geopolitical blunder that had repercussions for decades to come. For years, Sunni-dominated Iraq served as a buffer against Iranian expansionism in the region. That buffer has been shattered and the dividing line between Shia and Sunni has now been shifted hundreds of miles to the west and south. The Iranians will now enjoy convenient overland routes that will allow them to stir up trouble in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by mobilizing the Shiite minorities in those countries against their Sunni-dominated governments.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done to put this genie back in the bottle. The Saudis and Sunni Gulf states are too weak militarily to defend Iraq against Iranian envelopment. Britain is throwing in the towel and other European powers want nothing to do with Iraq. The only question now is how long will the United States continues to maintain 150,000 troops in Iraq to serve as a buffer against Shiite expansionism to the benefit of the oil-rich Sunni states on the Arabian peninsula.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!