As the Brits pull out, there's bad news from Basra

The new Iraqi police commander in the southern Iraqi city tells the UK's Guardian newspaper that not all looks promising there.

By Alex Koppelman

Published December 17, 2007 11:15PM (EST)

Sadly, despite what war supporters say, all is not yet sunny in Iraq. The British left the southern Iraqi city of Basra in Iraqi hands on Sunday, and the Iraqi general now in charge of the police there is not optimistic about what comes next.

In an interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper, the commander -- Major General Jalil Khalaf -- says of the British, "They left me militia, they left me gangsters, and they left me all the troubles in the world. ... I don't think the British meant for this mess to happen. When they disbanded the Iraqi police and military after Saddam fell the people they put in their place were not loyal to the Iraqi government. The British trained and armed these people in the extremist groups and now we are faced with a situation where these police are loyal to their parties not their country." Khalaf, who has survived 20 attempts on his life in the past six months, also provided the newspaper with a list of less-than-positive signs in Basra. (Separately, the Guardian also has an enthralling, if terribly depressing, audio interview with one of its own, Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. It's here, and worth a listen.)

There's also bad news from the north of Iraq, the Kurdish region that has until now been an oasis of relative stability. On Sunday, Turkey attacked Kurdish militants there; Monday, the Iraqi government back struck back verbally. According to the New York Times, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said in a statement, "These attacks hinder the political efforts exerted to find peaceful solution based on mutual respect," and in a press conference afterwards, blamed the U.S. for allowing Turkey to act.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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