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Basra Points to the Future of Iraq

If you want to know what Iraq is going to look like when we pull out (and we will pull out) take a look at Basra as reported by the Washington Post:

As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

"The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain's remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

As yesterday's attack on Sadr City demonstrates, Iraq is not "all about Al Qaeda" despite deceptive administration rhetoric to that effect. The problems in Iraq go far beyond the small band of vicious Saudi jihadists who are so adept at staging mass casualty suicide attacks. The divisions and fractures in Iraqi society are much deeper and far broader than anyone in the neo-con circle of decision-makers can comprehend.

When we toppled the Hussein regime, we created an enormous power vacuum in Iraq that has yet to be effectively filled. 160,000 US troops certainly is not enough to establish a functioning society with a cohesive, central government. The warring Shiite militias in the south paint a vivid picture of what all of Iraq will look like when we leave. The Sunnis don't get along particularly well with each other either; we can expect quite a bit of infighting and jockeying for power in their part of the country.

There's no reason to believe that our withdrawal will trigger an all-out civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites especially given the deep divisions within those groups themselves. The Iraqis simply aren't organized well enough to fight a recognizable civil war. Instead, we are likely to see a myriad of individual struggles with militias battling for control of individual neighborhoods. These conflicts will sometimes be Sunni vs. Shiite, but they are just as likely to be Sunni vs. Sunni and Shiite vs. Shiite. The presence or absence of the Saudi jihadists (aka "Al Qaeda") isn't going to make any appreciable effect on this eventuality.

Ultimately, after a brutal round of Darwinian selection individual groups will rise to the top and take control of defined areas (similar to how Hamas defeated Fatah in Gaza). Another possibility is that the warring parties will eventually exhaust themselves and come to a peace agreement as happened in Lebanon at the end of that country's 15-year civil war.

Either way, it doesn't make any sense for our troops to be embroiled in this conflict any longer. It hasn't made any sense for several years now. It's time to bring our boys home.

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!

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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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