Basra's significance

Violence is down overall in Iraq but not in Basra. The city had been run by the British until late last year when they turned the city over to the Iraqis. This was in contrast to the spirit of the surge says this analyst. One factor in Basra has been the Mehdi Army, the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Mehdi Army says it's being singled out by the Iraqi Security Forces and spokesman today warned the Iraqi government backed off. The fighting in Basra may have been inevitable because the fighting is really competition between two Shiite forces�the Mehdi Army, and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, Al Hakim's force. This analyst says the fighting is about the control over oil-rich Basra and control over Shia politics. The analyst says a resolution between the two is unlikely to come without violence. Provincial elections are scheduled for October and most of the militias have ties to various political parties. This analyst says some of the parties currently holding power might be threatened by the elections. She says the recent events in Basra speak to the needs of a negotiated settlement. This analyst says however the Mehdi Army would be unwise to overplay their hand through violence.