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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Iranian Basra?

Lyrebird wondered about this UK Guardian article asking if Iran controlled Basra. To be frank, I found the article rumor laden, poorly sourced, and almost purposefully misleading. The author attempts to patch together a variety of street sources that he means to imply that Basra, when not in chaos, is being run from Tehran. I dont know if it was poor editing, or bad headline writing but I found it unsupportable.

Even if the militias burn the city tomorrow, [the British] won't go into confrontation. They know they are outnumbered and they have huge losses if they do so."

The next day I went back to see the general. He was sitting with two other officers discussing his day."Our uncles, the British, flew me today to Ammara to attend the security handover ceremony," he said. "Give it one month and it will collapse," one of the officers replied.

"One month?" the general laughed . "Give it a few days."

So, its not that the Mahdi army is burning the city, or that their command has fallen, but that it might fall, maybe.

You can't move far in Basra without bumping into some evidence of the Iranian influence on the city. Even inside the British consulate compound visitors are advised not to use mobile phones because, as the security official put it ,"the Iranians next door are listening to everything".

In the Basra market Iranian produce is everywhere, from dairy products to motorcycles and electronic goods. Farsi phrase books are sold in bookshops and posters of Ayatollah Khomeini are on the walls.

So... some posters and stating the obvious that the Iranians are listening to communications from the war zone next door. Doesnt seem surprising to me. Iranian fruit. Should the Iraqis only buy Kuwaiti fruit or something? I assume the author knows that Basra is right next to Iran.

Readers may remember TheNewsBlog covered that the British were turning over control to the Mahdi army (at the same time the US was chasing Sadr in Baghdad) here .

This whole article sounded to me like it was written by someone with an agenda. Looking at the authors wiki page give me pause; It seems he is able to travel very well in Iraq and get 'embedded' without any problem in the most unusual places. I suspected he is some kind of operative, for who, i dont know.

Prof. Cole thinks he just has a pro Sunni agenda but agrees that its militia rule in Basra.

True, but whats the alternative? The Brits are leaving. Attacks are down and it seems calmer than when the British were storming prisons and generally pissing people off. I found this story from Spiegel Online to be more balanced.

"The security situation in Basra is good," says Kassim, a local pharmacist. "It's still worse than before the war, but it's improving every month."
A drop in murders to 30 in December. Sectarian violence in Basra has fallen "enormously," Blair said.

Compared to 50 murders in Baghdad day. I think its getting better in Basra. But I suppose that if you were formerly in the Sunni majority you wouldnt be very happy.

To me Basra seems to be an argument for U.S. withdrawal and perhaps they're people who dont want to see that happen just yet. People who dont just live in D.C.