Iraq – the nightmare continues

THE SHOOTING down for the first time of a British military helicopter
over the southern Iraq city of Basra last week, in which five servicemen
were killed, underlines the growing hostility to the occupying forces in
the south of the country.

British troops no longer routinely patrol this Shia heartland but
increasingly move by helicopter to avoid roadside bombs. Three years ago
the "liberating forces" were initially greeted by cheering crowds. Now,
crowds gather to cheer attacks on the British forces.

US and British forces are struggling to contain the largely Sunni
Arab-based insurgency. Yet the Sunni population makes up around 20% of
Iraq, what will happen when the Shia forces are unleashed against the

The rebuilt police force is heavily infiltrated by Islamist groups
such as the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade who are terrorising the local
Sunni population. These Shia militias, who according to the occupying
forces are armed by neighbouring Iran, are controlled by Shia religious
parties who form the government of Iraq.

The main growth industry in Iraq is kidnapping. Between five and 30
people are abducted for ransom every day. Often criminal groups
co-operate with insurgents as their victims are sometimes sold and

In the last three months an estimated 100,000 people have fled their
homes to escape sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni militias.

This bleak portrait of a country disintegrating into ethnic civil war
is the responsibility of George Bush and Tony Blair. Instead of a pliant
regime which would provide a platform for policing the Middle East and
providing the world economy with cheap oil, the occupation has turned
into a bloody nightmare for Iraqis and a political quagmire for