Friday, August 11, 2006

Meanwhile, in Basra...

Tension is once again mounting in Basra as the rift between the central government and the local administration grows deeper. Azzaman provides some disturbing updates on the situation where Iranian influence seems to be the reason for much of the troubles.

After the failure of the local administration represented by the provincial council in containing violence-which mostly took the form of sectarian murders and assassination of officials-and stopping the destructive smuggling of oil and oil products, PM Maliki ordered last week that security jurisdictions be taken away from the provincial council and handed over to a three-member 'emergency committee' chosen by the government in Baghdad.

The bad news is that reports say the provincial council defied the order and insisted that all powers remain in its hand but also pointed out that military leaders are apparently taking the side of Baghdad and seem willing to be under the civil command appointed by Maliki and this has alerted militias that belong to parties that make up the provincial council and news say militias are standing ready for any possible action by the military.

Other incidents in the city that targeted military officials seem to have a connection with this conflict between the dominant parties in Basra and the central government, this update on the earlier news of an Iraqi army senior officer suggests that orders to carry out the assassination came from Iran:

A top security official in Basra speaking on condition of anonymity stated that information obtained yesterday indicate that a death squad from an active militia in Basra are behind the assassination of colonel Qasim Abdul Qadir, the chief of management room of the 10th division of the army…the official said that orders for the assassination came from an intelligence body from across the borders…the source described the earlier military commander as a professional soldier who wasn't affiliated with any of the political parties in the city and was committed to the execution of the security plan ordered by PM Maliki…

I do not have a link for this (maybe one of you could find one) but I saw it on TV a couple days ago, I listened to ambassador Khalilzad talking about Iranian forces operating in Baghdad. He said that when he spoke at the ceremony of hand-over of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in provinces north of Baghdad.
Now if Iranian presence in Baghdad is becoming evident, I can only imagine how big that presence is getting in Basra where access is much easier and where ruling parties keep good relationships with the neighbors to the east!

Another piece of news that I could not find a confirmation for elsewhere is talking about the Iranian revolutionary guards corps setting up training camps for Iraqi militiamen on the border strip between the two countries:

Sources provided matching accounts that Iranian authorities evacuated villages at the border strip in Arab-populated Ahwaz and turned them into training camps that receive and train militiamen brought from Iraq before returning them back to Basra to perform attacks against Iraqi forces and British patrols. Meanwhile Iraqi intelligence officials said members of Iran's revolutionary guard corps are hunting down dozens of Ahwaz-Arabs who are members of the Iranian opposition and have been residing in Basra for several years.
On the other hand the 'media center for Ahwazi revolution' mentioned that the regime in Iran is calling upon Ahwaz-Arabs to go fight in Lebanon with Hezbollah since they have the advantage of being native speakers of Arabic…villagers were also displaced from a 90 000 acres between Hwaizah and Muhammara in what is known as the "92nd armored division war game.

Even if that story isn't accurate, other incidents like the murder of 7 Iraqi soldiers at the borders east of al-Kut (saw that on TV, no link available) show that there is something bad brewing out there.

If those report are accurate then the whole thing doesn't look good and when we learn that even the British troops in Basra are not in good shape we can only expect more trouble to come.

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