They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Monday, May 29, 2006

Basra in "grave danger"

azzaman: Security conditions in Basra are deteriorating with the new government losing power over much of the country.

Basra was relatively quiet as it had its police and security forces in place earlier than other cities in the south.

But the local security forces have become inept in the face of the growing influence of militias.

Analysts believe that conditions are now as worse in Basra as any other city within the so-called Sunni Triangle, the stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance.

The analysts say the situation is worsening in much of the south but Basra is the key to the stability of the region and the country at large.

Iraq's most prolific oil wells are situated within the provincial borders. These wells currently produce most of Iraq's oil output and make the bulk of its oil exports.

Iraq's wrangling factions, aware of Basra's strategic position as the country's principal oil producer, have built up strong militia forces and infiltrated government and police ranks in the city.

The region of Basra sits on more than 60% of the country's proven oil reserves estimated to be the second largest in the world after those of Saudi Arabia.

British forces in the area exercise almost no influence with both the militias and the local government.

Residents say the Brits prefer to stay in their barracks and those venturing out fear for their safety amid rising popular anger at their presence there.

The various militia groups of the Shiite political factions are said to have divided the region into separate spheres of influence.

Some factions are so strong that they can bring the area's oil industry to a halt, analysts say.

"The situation is volatile in Basra," declared President Jalal Talabani.

He also cited Baghdad, Diyala to the east and Anbar to the west as major flash points.

But the analysts say conditions fare no better in the northern oil rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.

Following a fact-finding mission to Basra, Adel Abdulmahdi, a vice-president, said: "The administrative, political and security aspects there (Basra) are in grave danger."

He said the government has drawn up what he called "political, administrative and security solutions" to deal with the situation in Basra.

But analysts say with the British forces avoiding as much as possible contact with the militias and the population at large, it will be almost impossible for the government to restore some semblance of normalcy. Link