Sunday, April 29, 2007

Perspective: As British draw down, violence in Basra is up

BASRA, IRAQ — If it weren't for the alcohol-free drinks, the scene could have been straight out of an English pub.

Young men sat in animated groups, sipping milkshakes and mugs of milky tea in a cozy, wood-paneled room. Others tucked into heaping plates of fish and chips. The TV was tuned to a soccer match, a game of pool was underway, and pop music pulsed in the background.

Until a crashing explosion sent everyone diving to the floor. For the next 10 minutes, the patrons of the restaurant at a British base here lay on their stomachs, waiting for the all-clear to sound.

Once an island of relative tranquillity in the mostly Shiite Muslim south, Basra has suffered a dramatic turnaround in the last two years.

Read the rest at the LA Times