2006 May 06 Saturday
Basra Shias Clash With British Forces

After a British helicopter crash in Basra the Shias in the area got violent.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A British military helicopter crashed in Basra on Saturday, and Iraqis hurled stones at British troops and set fire to three armored vehicles that rushed to the scene. Clashes broke out between British troops and Shiite militias, police and witnesses said.

Police Capt. Mushtaq Khazim said the helicopter was apparently shot down in a residential district. He said the four-member crew was killed, but British officials would say only that there were "casualties."


The crowd chanted "we are all soldiers of al-Sayed," a reference to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, an ardent foe of the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

I interpret this as a sign of growing power for Sadr and decreasing power for older and more restrained Shia cleric Sistani. That does not bode well for the continued presence of US and British troops in Iraq.

The Shia youths threw Molotov cocktails at the Brits sent to try to rescue any crash survivors.

BASRA, Iraq -- A fiery melee erupted after a British helicopter apparently was shot down over a wealthy residential neighborhood of this southern city Saturday, in the latest sign of souring relations between Iraq's majority Shiites and the U.S.-led multinational forces in the country's south.


By the time the smoke cleared and an all-night curfew was imposed in parts of the city, at least four Iraqis lay dead and 20 others had been injured either in the crash or the ensuing skirmishes between Molotov-cocktail-wielding youth and British soldiers.

The chopper crash and riot marked a nadir in relations between Britain's 8,500 soldiers in Iraq's south and Basra's Shiite population, which was oppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime and initially welcomed the U.S.-led invasion.

The Brits travel a lot in helicopters because ground travel around Basra is too dangerous.

We rely very heavily on helicopters in the south of Iraq to minimise travel by road and successful militant missile strike would be a very serious problem for us,' said one recently retired British senior army officer. 'It could push up casualties significantly.'

Okay, Basra is very far from the Sunni Triangle and Fallujah. It is deep in the Shia heartand. Yet the Brits avoid travelling on the ground, a British helicopter was probably shot down by a rocket, and when the Brits showed up at the crash a hostile crowd quickly grew and turned violent. Will the Shias rise up against the coalition forces? The US military is not big enough to handle such a turn of events.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 May 06 05:04 PM  Mideast Iraq

Richard said at May 7, 2006 7:00 AM:

Gee, early on were not the Brits kinda bragging about how they got along better in Basra as professional imperialists than those amateur Yanks?

Dave said at May 7, 2006 7:33 AM:

not normal Brits, Richard, mainly just the anti-American elitist MSM.

I was in favour of the war to start with but I think we stayed too long, once the Basra local government was in control we should have left them to it, sure they wouldn't have been great but probably better than Saddam and if something went wrong we shouldn't have got as much blame and could have maybe gone back in to stabilise things on a strictly short term basis.
If we just hang around almost indefinately from the point of view of Iraqis they are going to reject us sooner or later.

Randall Parker said at May 7, 2006 7:43 AM:


I do remember those sorts of comments, even from some British officers. Though I'm guessing in their defense that our mishandling the rest of Iraq has changed attitudes in their area as well. Not that I think we could have handled Iraq extremely well even with enormous wisdom.

Actually, with enormous wisdom we wouldn't have invaded in the first place.


Has the local Basra government done better than Saddam did? The police are members of various militias and organized crime gangs (and it is hard to tell the difference) and are preying on the population. I bet Saddam's regime protected people from criminals better than the current government.

Dave said at May 7, 2006 1:48 PM:

some British Officers might have said it but they are goaded by the media also, which keeps asking them about how 'differently' they handle things to Americans, trying to imply 'better'.

Well yes Saddam ruled with an iron fist so security was apparently better, but its a question of balance. In the USA if you had someone like Saddam ruling crime may well be lower and the borders secure but would it be better? what about the mass graves and the 'real' torture of people in Abu Ghraib.

Randall Parker said at May 7, 2006 2:49 PM:


It is my impression that the number of people dying daily in Iraq right now is much higher than it was in the latter years of the Saddam regime. I could be wrong on that point.

It is also my impression that millions of Iraqi women are much less free now than they were under Saddam.

Bob Badour said at May 8, 2006 3:26 PM:

Bush and Rummy lost the war three years ago when the army showed up without sufficient manpower to maintain order in the conquered territory. The day after the statue came down when anarchy broke out while impotent US soldiers watched passively, the US lost the war.

The only thing we can really do now is make sure the history books accurately record the Bush legacy for the stupid alcoholic fucktard he is.

Bush is an evil man as is any man who seeks war by half measures. He believes in hell, and he deserves to burn there for eternity.

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