If you want to know what Baghdad is going to look like at the end of 2008 as US troops are pulling out in time for the elections here just take a look at Basra:
As U.S. troops battle to retake Baghdad and surrounding areas, the government is reported to have lost its control of Basra where almost all of the country's oil exports originate. The city, according to well-placed sources, is under the hegemony of militias who do not run its streets only but have imposed levies and taxes on oil output.
"It may be too late for Prime Minister Nouri al-Naliki to restore control of Basra," one source working for Iraqi intelligence said. The sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, point to the growing Iranian influence in Basra and most of southern Iraq. The loss of Basra to Shiite militias is a blow to current U.S. military operations mainly directed against Sunni rebels and elements of al-Qaeda group in the country.
The British, who began drawing down forces in Basra some months ago, are taking a fearful drubbing at the hands of the militias as they pull out. A bomb killed three British soldiers and injured a fourth during a resupply mission in Basra last night. A total of 22 British service members have been killed in the last three months alone making these the deadliest three consecutive months of the war for them (excluding the first month of the invasion). Attacks on British troops have been on the rise as militias target British armored convoys with roadside bombs and launch frequent mortar attacks on their barracks. We can expect a similar display of ingratitude when our forces begin executing their withdrawal from Baghdad.
Meanwhile, warring militias are in fierce competition for control of Basra:
The sources said Basra was in the midst of "huge chaos" with the political factions and their militias dividing the city into zones of influence.
Senior Iraqi officials, refusing to be named, said Maliki was concerned about latest developments in Basra and other southern cities. The officials said Maliki intends to deploy two army battalions and a commando police force in the city to strengthen the provincial government there. But according to intelligence reports it will take a much bigger force to take on the heavily armed militias in the city.
Maliki can forget about retaking control of Basra. It's not going to happen.
Baghdad could, in fact, be a lot worse than Basra since it has a much greater presence of Sunni insurgent groups and Al Qaeda terrorrists. Some suggest that Baghdad could look like Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, but my feeling is it will be more similar to Mogadishu in Somalia due to the intense tribal loyalties in Iraq. The city will be divided into sectors with a myriad of armed militias, terrorist, criminal and insurgent groups battling for control. We will see clashes not only across sectarian lines, but also within them as various groups battle for domination of key neighborhoods.
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