Sources in Iraq report increase activities of 200-300 strong British forces near the Iran-Iraq border of Shalamcheh.
Recent move follows Shia’s infighting in Basra led by the Iraqi Prime Minister to drive Moqtada al Sadr to isolation. Maliki’s offensive has apparently failed to eliminate the military and political power of Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr, ahead of the provincial elections set for October. Nuri al-Maliki said his security forces would stop arresting militiamen if they handed in their weapons,. Mehdi Army has, in response, told its members to ignore this. Major-General Mohammed al-Askari told Reuters (4 April) around 1,000 Iraqi soldiers had deserted during the fighting in Basra, something that will concern Washington. Maliki has seemingly misjudged his own determination to fight a long bloody battle in Basra which according to some estimates led to over 2000 killed and injured. According to some reports, Maliki’s miscalculation may have undermined his long term plans and political ambitions, but strengthened Sadr’s position as someone who can declare war or ceasefire. To demonstrate his renewed influence, Sadr has called for a mass rally for April 9 in Baghdad against US forces in Iraq, while US soldiers are pushing Shiite militias farther from the Green Zone, and move into Sadr City.
It is not yet clear whether closure of Shalamcheh border and reconnaissance activities of British forces is to limit Tehran’s influence in the Basra conflict, or is part of a wider move for possible future military operations against Iran, should Tehran pursue its nuclear ambitions.