Monday, June 13, 2005
Mozart: Yes, Michael Jackson: No

As the disillusion in the Senate mounts over the rise in public disapproval for the Iraqi effort, a British assessment of required troop deployment in the South of the country has concluded that the new government will be unable to provide competent security until 2006 at the earliest.

Middle East Newsline reports that the after an assessment of the situation in the Basra area and of Iraqi military capability, the Defense Ministry decided that Iraq's army is not yet ready. Officials cited high absenteeism, a lack of discipline and inability to cope with the insurgency.

An article in today's Guardian sheds some light on the methods used by the British Army in securing Shi'a acquiesscence to their presence. Was there a natural rise in religiosity once the Shi'a community was freed from the dead hand of Saddam's Ba'athist regime? Were the rudimentary Shi'a authorities encouraged by the British looking for figures who could be co-opted to represent and secure their territory? Did this represent a process that the Iranians tacitly encouraged, providing greater influence for their conservative brand of radical Islamisation? It is difficult to tell if the British Army has presided over a Basra, reminiscent of a shift towards mullahocracy or whether this is a genuine democratisation, reflecting the tribal and sectarian structures of southern Iraq.

Since the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein two years ago, this city with a long liberal tradition and the surrounding provinces have fallen under the sway of conservative Islam.

Alcohol shops have been burnt, women have been encouraged to wear the veil and music has been banned in many places. Prostitution has gone underground. A student picnic was viciously attacked because the male and female undergraduates mingled.

Mr Bahadli, an ally of the influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, said music and television must not excite the wrong emotions. "Mozart yes, Michael Jackson no."

Religious parties with links to Iran won the election in January and, by the admission of Basra's chief of police, their militias largely control the city, raising the spectre of what has been dubbed "Shiastan", a swath of Iraq under the sway of Shia clerics.

Still, if the wedding market provides an indicator of Iraqi optimism and growth, then growth has soared. No longer a quagmire, but we'll draw a veil over the civil liberties of Iraqi women in Basra.


Post a Comment

Blog Archive