Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Away from the Green Zone

Tigerhawk reports that freelance journalist and erstwhile blogger Steven Vincent has been kidnapped and executed in Basra. We are lucky that Steven and others like him are brave enough to venture outside the Green Zone.

Poke around the Red Zone for a bit and read about the life that Steven was so recently living. One of his final posts recounted a somewhat comical episode -- the invasion of Um al-Rasas:

Down Basra way, the country most preoccupying the locals is not Amrika, but that brooding, seething, over-cleric'd Mordor to the east, Iran. Whether its supporting religious parties, smuggling oil and gas, sabotaging the energy infrastructure, orchestrating sectarian assassinations or other neighborly deeds, Basrawi detect the stealthy hand of Tehran in nearly every aspect of their lives. "We don't talk about this in public," a professor at Basra U. told me. "Get too explicit and you get 'disappeared.'"

Give such sensitivity to their ancient Persian adversary, its not surprising that many Basrans were peeved to read a few weeks ago former defense minister Hazim al-Shalan's contention that Iranian soldiers had occupied a small Iraqi island in the Shatt-al-Arab near Fao. Scandal! Dishonor! Shades of Quemu-Matsu! What's next, Ayatollahs promenading on the Corniche?

P1010197_1 No Iranians here..

So it was I recently found myself storming the beaches of Um al-Rasas Island, searching--hoping--for signs of Iranian infiltration. To my disappointment, I discovered nothing but ducks and weeds and bull rushes and dirt paths meandering off into yellowing papyrus reeds. Turns out, the car trip 40 kilos south of Basra and a boat ride halfway `cross the Shatt was little more than an op for some Ministry of Defense official to photo with a cadre of security guards and prove that Um al-Rasas remained free of the minions of Tehran.

There's much more.