Thursday, February 22, 2007

Perspective: Iran, militias could gain from British pullout

A guard on duty at an oil refinery in Basra, where the majority of Iraq's oil fields are located.

BAGHDAD — Britain's planned reduction in its force in southern Iraq could empower Iran and lead to more bloodshed between rival Shiite Muslim groups, analysts warned Wednesday.

The area around Basra is less violent than Baghdad, and sectarian killings are rare, in part because it is overwhelmingly Shiite. But the government's authority there is rivaled by armed groups that are "thoroughly intertwined with criminal enterprises," according to a report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"In the coming year, the drawdown of British forces in the deep south will likely be accompanied by an upsurge of factional violence as the long-delayed fight for local supremacy begins in earnest," said the report, written by Iraq security specialists Michael Knights and Ed Williams.

Read the rest at USA Today