Operation Sinbad has been functioning in Basra since 27 September, 2006. It aims to root out corrupt elements in the police, whilst providing assistance to rebuild and repair essentials such as schools, hospitals, water systems and electricity supplies. It is led by the Iraqi Security Service supported by British, Danish and other Multi-National Forces; with the rebuilding aspects of the project being carried out by Iraqi engineers.
In the Commons debate on Wednesday, Margaret Beckett drew from a Basra opinion survey taken last month which showed that 92% feel that their neighbourhoods are now more secure, 50% feel that the police service is now effective in protecting their neighbourhoods (up from 32%) and 75% believe that it will further improve this year. 67% believe that the police are capable and professional.
The indictions are that Kurds in the north who operate under a great deal of autonomy, overwhelmingly trust and support their democratic institutions and their security system. Many of the Shia in the south are favourable towards the new political set up as it gives them a newly found collective influence and they hope to see trustworthy security and other provisions develop. This is a countervailing force to Iranian influences.
The overwhelming problems remain in Baghdad and its surrounding areas, where terrorism has driven people for protection into separate communities of Sunni and Shia. If Iraq is not to fracture, the removal of terrorism by military and political means in this area is an essential in facilitating the re-integration of communities. The lesson from Northern Ireland might be the Belfast Agreement, but we only reached that stage by containing the paramilitary threats of the likes of the Provisional IRA and Unionist Paramilitary equivalents.
The main question in Iraq is how can we assist the Iraqi Government to overcome the terrorist activities in the Baghdad area and what forces are available for this task, American or otherwise. The problem won't go away - even if we do.