Sunday, September 26, 2004

A report in the Turkish paper Zaman states that the three Shi'ite provinces under the control of British forces wish to become an autonomous region, modelled on the Kurdish grouping:

Three Shiite provinces under the control of British forces in southern Iraq followed the example of the Kurdish region in the north and applied to the Bagdat (Baghdad) administration in order to be recognized as an "autonomous territory".

The local administrators of Basra, Amara, and Nasiriye agreed that they wanted to unify and be granted autonomy. Basra Governor, Hasan Rasid reported that they sent their demands to interim Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. This development, confirmed also by the speaker of the parliament in Amara province, increases the disintegration anxieties of Iraq.

There are a number of ways that this development could be interpreted: a sense of Shi'ite community, fostered by the British or the Iranians (or both); a prelude to a disintegrating Iraq, grabbing local control in order to preserve power through control of the sea-port, if the centre does not hold; a vote of confidence in the prevailing power structure, and exercising their voice in a potentially federal Iraq. Whatever the motive, an automous Shi'ite grouping hastens the departure of British troops.

The Iranians are raising their profile on the border and probing the resolve of the new government with the arrest of Iraqi fishermen; or were they checking for the SAS? Basra airport has clean sewers and is nearly operational. (Will there be customers given the security news?). The Kiwi deployment of light engineers has also ended.

An article on the not-so-good situation in Basra and Allawi's visit can be found here with further insight on how the Iraqis learn democracy:

A steady flow of people is passing through the gate. One man complains to an official that he has not been allowed to cast all his family’s votes as they used to do under Saddam. One person, one vote, he is told.

(22.49, 26th September 2004)


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