Friday, May 16, 2003
Basra - 16th May 2003, 20.12

The situation in Basra is far less advanced than most supporters of the war would have expected. Recent events appear to show that the superb planning of the war effort may have foundered under the differing needs and unpredictable developments in postwar Iraq. Delays can be attributed to the intelligence held on the poor operational state of Iraq's infrastructure and the political configurations that could re-emerge following the overthrow of the Ba'ath regime.

To manage the transition from the postwar phase to reconstruction, the MOD has appointed Major-General Graeme Lamb, a veteran of special forces operations in Northern Ireland, to command a new multinational force (comprised of Italians, Norwegians, Danes and Netherlanders, as well as British troops). The order to move Italian troops was published on May 14th although negotiations continue with other nations.

The refinery is now up and running, producing 68,000 bpd. Although this is insufficient to supply the needs of Basra or Baghdad, the opening of a pipeline on May 25th is planned to ease the distribution bottlenecks that currently strangle the Iraqi economy. It is noteworthy that,

Luckily there was no major damage or looting," said Keith James, a British oil expert and army reservist. "There were some mechanical problems and it took some time getting the parts we needed, but things are making good progress."

However, positive news is clouded by accusations of torture from Amnesty International (which appear to be based upon unsubstantiated testimony) and the detection of cholera.

The reputation of the coalition forces is declining within Iraq itself as the initial release from Ba'athist terror is replaced by the mundane battles for survival in a decrepit and dysfunctional economy. Living standards in postwar Iraq (except for Kurdistan) are probably lower than they were in the first quarter of the year and, unless this decline is reversed will feed the disillusionment and islamicisation that is currently developing in the background. As yet, the choice of Iraq is not this stark, but it soon could be:

The democracy presents a dilemma for the self-proclaimed creators of democracy in the post-Saddam Iraq. A democratic Iraq will be a Shia Iraq – an Islamic republic governed by the Shariyat laws. For Americans a democratic Iraq might be a dangerously anti-US Iraq. Therefore, they will be hard pushed to find a democrat, who could manipulate the popular will, manage the Ayatollahs and guarantee to fulfil the US interests in the oil rich country. Indeed a tall order.


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