The war is back in the streets of Baghdad and Basra and all over the place. After a period of relative quiet, the Sadr militia seems to have given up on their ceasefire and what is considered an embryonic Shia civil war has broken out again in what used to be Iraq.
Yesterday two of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi’s guards were killed within the Green Zone in mortar attacks. US military is fighting and bombing Sadr City and involved in fighting in Basra, too. Basra has been the responsibility of British troops, which have been redeployed from there only last December to a camp at Basra airport. They are now joining in the fighting again and have announced that planned troop reductions to about 2500 in spring are unlikely now.
The intense fighting means that Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, is likely to tell the Commons next week that British troop levels will remain at about 4,100 for the next few months, abandoning plans to reduce numbers to 2,500 from the spring.
Iraqi army soldiers and police are defecting and handing equipment to the Mehdi militia if not outright fighting for them:
The scene on the other side of the battlefield proved his suspicions right. Dug in behind a wall was a squad of Mehdi Army fighters, the Shia militiamen Lt Abbas and 15,000 other Iraqi soldiers have been sent to quell.
Sure enough, one was driving an American-issue Iraqi army Humvee – one of seven, said the squad’s leader, Haji Ali, handed to them by sympathisers within the Iraqi army.
“We shall fight them until the last drop of our blood,” he snarled, clutching a Glock pistol of the kind issued to Iraqi police. “We will force them to respect the Mehdi Army.”
A German parliamentary delegation to Iraq has to cancel meetings that are supposed to take place in the relative safety of the Green Zone, because of “security concerns”.
But even this mess is not big enough, so that it can’t be spun:
Gordon Brown’s spokesman said: “The fact that the Iraqi security forces are able to engage in this way in Basra is a recognition of the training and support that they have been given in recent years, that they are now able to take on a much greater degree of responsibility for their own security.”
I’d like to have some of what they get to smoke or drink or swallow. Let’s just hope, the Bush Administration isn’t using this outbreak to “prove” Iran’s meddling and turn it into a “defining moment in the history of IRAN.”