In Iraq’s southern city of Basra, a critically important location because of it’s proximity to valuable oil and it’s trafficking, it is being reported that “thousands of Iraqi troops [are battling] Shia militias.” This is bad news for everyone. The BBC is reporting that at least 30 people have died, we can assume many more. Apparently, the situation in Basra has instigated altercations throughout the occupied nation, including Sadr City, a neighborhood of Baghdad. There, the militia has ordered the Iraqi army to vacate the vicinity.
Now, I’m trying to make as much sense of this situation as possible with the sources I have available to me, and it appears to be pretty complicated. As I understand it, the Mehdi militia, loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, has been subject to a government crack-down. As a result, the movement has threatened then acted upon a national campaign of civil disobedience in the form of demonstrations and protests. The latest fighting is clearly an escalation of these actions. Ninjas will remember that Sadr’s supporters are currently heeding a call for a six-month cease-fire ordered by al-Sadr.
Different Shia groups are fighting against each other in Basra, as are they fighting government and international forces (though it hasn’t directly been reported that international forces have been involved, air-strikes have been, so that’s got to be either the US or the Brits). The Brits had control of the city until December of ’07, when they turned it over to the local authorities. Now, apparently, these authorities tried to disarm the Mehdi army. Poor decision. The Iraqi government and the U.S. accuse the Mehdi movement of receiving munitions, training, and funds from Iran.
We at the dojo will be keeping a close eye on this situation.