Predictably, and we did predict this back in August as an argument for withdrawal. The British pullout in Basra has caused a significant drop in violence. So much so even Bush's general, Petraeus was forced to comment on it.
General Petraeus, giving the Government his own assessment of the way that things are going in the south, said that he had personally blessed the decision to pull out the remaining 500 troops from the Basra Palace base, and was pleased that it had been carried out "in an orderly way". He also said that the level of violence in the city in recent weeks had dropped significantly. -- timesonlineNot that it's all hearts and flowers. There are increasingly reports of cholera outbreaks and still no regular clean drinking water and power issues. There have been a few suicide bombings that threatened the peace but that has seemed to have passed for the moment. There is also an increase in fundamentalism in and around Basra. Billboards with women being painted over, music CD's being banned. This is clearly the Iranian influence. Which is much more pronounced there in the south due to the proximity and many Iranians actually living in Basra. Between that and the support for Shiite leader Moqtada Al Sadr, there is a distinct decrease in social freedoms. Whether this translates into a radical Islamic state ala' the Taliban is unclear. My sense of the Iraqi culture would be no. The Iranians went very strict after their revolution but didn't go near as far as the Taliban. But does Petraeus think that the rise of the Sadrist's is something that should concern us?
General Petraeus said he would not put it at the top of his list, but that it was one of several factors that would dictate when conditions were right for any reduction of forces. "But I wouldn't rank it in any particular order," he said.Sounds more like he has too much on his plate rather than good assessment. Or maybe he is getting confused by all the spin.
Once again we see (excepting the suicide bombings) removing the irritant, the focal point of the violence, foreign occupiers, causes a reduction in violence. We have seen this in Al Anbar and now in Basra. Remember all the sturm und drang we heard about the Brits pulling out? How they are betraying us and that the area would devolve into a orgy of religious murder and violence. I guess the war bloggers are wrong again. Instead of faking trend lines showing decreases in violence in other areas, the Pentagon and the administration are avoiding drawing attention to these successes because they show that disengagement is clearly becoming the most viable strategy.