James Forsyth

Is Basra back under Iraqi government—not militia—control?

Is Basra back under Iraqi government--not militia--control?
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Today’s AFP dispatch from Basra makes for fascinating reading. It suggests that the Iraqi government efforts to rein in the militias that had come to dominate the town, thanks in part to British policy, has been much more successful than initially thought: 

“Residents say the streets have been cleared of gunmen, markets have reopened, basic services have been resumed and a measure of normality has returned to the oil-rich city.

The port of Umm Qasr is in the hands of the Iraqi forces who wrested control of the facility from Shiite militiamen, and according to the British military it is operational once again.” There’s no doubt that Prime Minister Maliki’s snap decision to launch the clampdown and his failure to properly coordinate with the Coalition forces meant that the operation did not go as smoothly as it could have done. But if the Maliki government is both prepared—as the assault on Basra and Sadr city showed it is—and able to successfully confront the Shiite militias then this would represent a major step forward for Iraq and be as important as the Sunni Awakening which combined with the surge has done so much to degrade al Qaeada in Iraq’s effectiveness.

The awful violence today, bombs in four different cities killed 66 people, is a reminder of just how fragile progress in Iraq is. But the truth is that the situation in Iraq is far better than it was in 2006 when most of the British political class decided to tune out. 

Hat Tip: The Weekly Standard

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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