Basra Fighting Threatens Recent Gains in Iraq

March 28, 2008 02:19 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
This week’s renewed violence in Basra ended the Mahdi Army’s seven-month ceasefire and left analysts wondering why the fighting began and when it will end.

30-Second Summary

On the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi forces on Tuesday launched a crackdown on Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Basra.

Since then, Basra has been in the grip of heavy fighting that has left at least 105 people dead and 300 injured.

However, peace negotiations may be underway. Al-Jazeera reports that Mahdi leaders are said to be holding talks to end the fighting, and Prime Minister al-Maliki on Friday extended a deadline for Shiite militants to hand in their weapons, offering a financial reward if they comply.

Still, the reason fighting broke out remains unclear.

“As with most things about Iraq, it's a more complex case than Bush makes it out to be,” writes Fred Kaplan for Slate, who suggests that Bush’s comments that “Iraqi security forces are waging a tough battle against militia fighters and criminals” is overly simplistic.

Both sides, he writes, “are essentially militias” and both sides have ties to Iran.

The Christian Science Monitor reports, however, that the American theory that rogue militia fighters in Basra are undoubtedly tied to Iran could have repercussions.

"This is pretty serious, and if the Iranians do not back down rapidly this will escalate," says Martin Navias, an analyst at Britain's Centre for Defense Studies at King's College in London.

Headline Links: ‘Fighting Continues in Basra’

Reactions: Pres. Bush and Nouri al-Maliki

Opinions & Analysis: Theories behind the fighting

Related Topics: Demonstrations follow violence in Basra

Background: Al-Sadr calls for cease-fire

Reference: The Mahdi Army


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