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Jamestown Foundation: The Military Politics of Basra

Author: Babak Rahimi
July 6, 2007

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Summary:

This report from the Jamestown Foundation says that Basra, the second-largest and the richest city in Iraq, is at the brink of a major economic and political meltdown. It argues that unless Baghdad succeeds in reaching a compromise over the country's governmental apparatus (especially over the issue of federalism), the southern city may become the greatest threat to the future of post-Baathist Iraq. Such a threat lies mainly in a struggle for power between Shiite militias and tribal forces who compete for control over oil resources, territorial domination and public capital. 

Excerpt:

Basra, the second largest and the richest city in Iraq, is at the brink of a major economic and political meltdown. Unless Baghdad succeeds in reaching a compromise over the country's governmental apparatus (especially over the issue of federalism), the southern city may become the greatest threat to the future of post-Baathist Iraq. Such a threat lies mainly in a struggle for power between Shiite militias and tribal forces who compete for control over oil resources, territorial domination and public capital (hospitals and schools), which are all leading to an erosion of security in a city that is the source of Iraq's economic life. Although much of this turmoil is a reflection of the unstable nature of the transitional process, the current situation in Basra may represent a future scenario for Iraq that is made up of political factionalism and devoid of a functional government.

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