Saturday, May 31, 2003

A few days ago, Tony Blair went to Basra to congratulate British troops on a job well done. The British do seem to have fewer problems than the Americans do - you don't hear the same reports of Iraqis being shot that you do from American-patrolled areas - but the Americans also have a tougher job in Baghdad and the Baathist heartland of central Iraq. (Still...the U.S. job shouldn't get rave reviews...more on that later.)

Basra still has problems, however. As people in the above article noted, law and order remains a concern. Recently the British dissolved their original governing council for the city due to its members' connections with the Baath party. In its place, they've done something interesting: Set up separate bodies for developing a government and repairing infrastructure. (Note for the day: The leader of the old administration, Shaykh Muhazem al-Tamimi, appears to be a member of the Tamim tribe that was a major rival to the Azd from my dissertation.) This highlights an important issue in Iraq reconstruction: Iraqis want the Ba'ath party out and services restored ASAP, yet the people most qualified to restore services are former members of the Ba'ath party.

Services in Basra do seem to be better than in Baghdad, probably due to the city's smaller size. USA Today reported awhile back that 90% of the city had electricity, and there was some phone service. Yet now disease, war's ancient companion, has reared its ugly head in the form of a cholera outbreak because of poor sanitation. Stay tuned.


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