The southern Iraqi port of Basra was once hailed as a success for coalition troops, but as British forces pull out, the city is devolving into violent conflict typical of Baghdad. Loose political parties and criminal gangs, which the remaining Brits are powerless to control, are fighting to dominate the town—perhaps prefiguring a possible Balkanization when the US leaves Iraq.
Basra is in a homogenous Shiite region, ruling out sectarian conflict as the cause of the violence, as well as the meddling of Iran and al-Qaeda. Visitors describe the remaining British troops barricaded behind sandbags and peppered by mortars. "The British have basically been defeated in the south," says a US intelligence official.