The latest reports out of Basra indicate that life appears to be returning to normal even as Iraq’s central government indicates that military operations around the city would continue. The Iraqi army now claims its troops are in control of much of Basra even as security forces are going house-to-house to confiscate weapons. It is still too early to determine if the Iraqi central government accomplished its objectives in Basra, but the events of the last week did demonstrate three things:
- Iran continues to meddle in Iraq’s internal security. Reports indicate that a Friday trip by Iraqi lawmakers to the Iranian city of Qom was key in securing Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s acceptance of a cease fire. A major goal of the Iraqi delegation to Qom was to persuade Iran to stop arming Shiite militants in Iraq.
- Iraq’s army is stronger, but still not strong enough. The move against Shiite militias in Basra came from the Iraqi army and only involved limited U.S. support. The Shiite rebels are fighting mainly Iraqi soldiers, rather than Americans. Unfortunately, the Iraqi army now admits “they had underestimated militia resistance in Basra.“
- The premature British withdrawal from Basra allowed militias to flourish. Basra is one part of Iraq the surge has never been tried. Absent a strong stabilizing force, like the U.S. troops in Baghdad, rival militias and criminal gangs have filled the security vacuum.
While the long-term presence of American combat troops is not in the interests of the United States or the Iraqi government, helping the Iraqis get on the road to peace and stability is clearly in the U.S. interest. The eruption of a full-blown civil war in Iraq and a wide-spread humanitarian crisis could further destabilize the region. Abandoning the people of Iraq would enable Iran’s regional expansion and al Qaeda’s effort to establish a sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East.
Turning its back on Iraq would lead America’s other friends and allies, including those trying to finish off al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to question America’s commitment and resolve. There is no way to achieve these important goals without patiently maintaining a strong American military presence on the ground for at least several years to come.
- A mass grave of more than 50 people thought killed by al Qaeda in Iraq during its two-year reign of terror was uncovered in Iraq’s Diyala province.
- British chancellor Alistair Darling will propose a new international regulatory agency, charged with keeping watch over individual banks, insurers and securities houses with big cross-border interests.
- A San Francisco Chronicle examination of top public employee salaries in the Bay Area’s three biggest cities last year indicates that the union power that is blamed for Vallejo’s financial doom is prevalent in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland as well.
- The Arizona legislature is expected to fast track bills to create a temporary worker program in the state that would streamline the process for Arizona employers to hire temporary workers from Mexico.
- Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson have lent their names to Al Gore’s $300 million ad campaign “to push climate change higher on the nation’s political agenda.”