This is a pretty good preview of the next big battle in Iraq–over Basrah and its adjacent oil fields in the south. There are three contending Shi’ite parties:
SIIC [formerly SCIRI, the Hakim family organization including the Badr Brigade militia] has the overt backing of Washington and, ironically, having grown up in Iran for more than two decades before the 2003 war, has the closest ties to Iran. It’s the upper class of the Shiite party power structure.
The Fadhila and Sadr parties share a larger local power base, and although they are believed to have some tie to Iran, are very pro-Iraqi nationalist.
Fadhila has a stronger share of the upper working class, giving it a power base that got it elected in 2005.
The Sadr Party strength comes from “some really poor slums in Basra,” said [Juan]Cole.
It’s “closest to the masses,” said Rochdi Younsi, Middle East analyst at the business risk firm Eurasia Group, and its leader, “the Shiite Che Guevara,” is rallying poor Shiites against Shiite, Sunni and U.S. adversaries throughout Iraq.
This fight is going to have a greater impact on the future of Iraq than practically anything the U.S. is now doing there, and certainly it’s more relevent to the future than the assorted writhings of the Maliki non-government.
Update: Thanks to reader Whskyjack for this link to more information about the situation in Basrah. If anyone out there has other Basrah links–especially to live, real-time local reporting–I’d be interested in hearing about it.