A decision of the British contingent command to hand over the Basra Province under control of the Iraqi security forces “is another proof of increasing power of the Mojahedins and deteriorating position of the Americans” in Iraq.
This az-Zavihiri’s statement has been placed on an Internet Site of combatants on December 16, Associated Press reported. “It doesn’t matter that a huge publicity machine of the USA tries to deceive people, the realty is stronger than any lie”, he said.
The previous day Major General Graham Binns, Commander of the British Forces, handed over the security provision powers to Muhammed al-Vaili , Governor of the Basra province. As far back as in September 4500 British troops were withdrawn from the city and stationed in a guarded military camp in the territory of the airport outside the administrative center.
Pursuant to the agreements, the British units may be engaged in individual special operations, e.g. the combat sweep, only in conjunction with Iraqi Army units and as requested by local authorities. The main mission of the British Forces is training of commanding officers and specialists of the Iraqi security forces to fight against terrorists.
After overthrow of Saddam Hussein in spring 2003, the British troops imposed their control over southern provinces Al-Muthanna, Maysan, Dhi Quar and Basra. In the first three provinces the British command handed over their powers to local security forces under pretence of “stabilization of the situation”. These provinces were out of the strategic interest and witnessed no severe resistance to occupation troops.
However, in Basra that is the second-in-size city and most important sea port of Iraq, the British troops were engaged in real war. The British military posts and patrols were constantly assaulted by armed combatants. Shiah militant religious groups “ Mahdi Army” (leader - Moqtada al-Sadr) and “Badra Brigades” (leader – Abdel Aziz al-Khakim) that are at feud with each other, show a united front against occupants. The British death toll in this war is 174.
Iraqi officials assess this step of the British command ambiguously. Major General Jalil Halaf, Chief of the Basra Police, said in his interview to The Guardian and ITV that the chaos may be evaluated only after the British troops leave the city. “They left gangsters and all world problems to me”, the general complained.
The stability in the province is needed because it is rich of large crude oil reserves and possesses developed transportation facilities. Therefore the concern of the Iraqi general is quite understandable - currently the national security forces are too weak and unable to effectively resist to violence in the province.
In return, Aiman az-Zavahiri especially stressed that “Iraq is one of the largest areas of the Muslim war” and urged to expand armed resistance to the foreign military presence in the country. The world terrorist, who is the second in rank and has a long bloody record, would hardly fail to exploit the situation in Basra to deploy large-scale subversive actions in Southern Iraq.