Baghdad's Sadrist insurgency was the most violent, though Iraqi security forces have been able to contain violence in most southern cities. This brings to light what Iraqis are suffering in the country, which is known as Iraq's economic capital and is linked to international markets. Anti-government protests have broken out in several Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul, Fallujah and Sulaymaniyah.
Yet Basra has overcome this natural disadvantage and is growing rapidly, building a reputation as a patron of some of Iraq's greatest artists. It is the second largest city, home to more than 1.5 million people and has about 2.2 million inhabitants. There are a large number of universities, a university system and an international airport.
The province is home to some of Iraq's largest oil fields, and the majority of oil exports come from the Al-Basrah oil terminal. Although most of the oil is produced in Basra, it is still one of Iraq's most undersupplied provinces. This is because Basra, while being the "only province with access to Iraq's coast," is nowhere near able to export oil by sea.
There are also many positive things about Basra these days, and along the Shatt al-Arab River that flows through it, a lot is being built. The Basra Sports City is one of many projects that the Iraqi government began building over the past decade, when oil prices reached $100 a barrel and the country's boom cities produced billions of dollars worth of crude.
There used to be a large-scale system, but the recent war put an end to that, and Iraq is only now starting to rebuild its railways. After Iraq gained independence, it retained the railroads, renamed the system Iraqi State Railways, and later changed it again to Iraqi Republican Railways.
Coalition forces and the Iraqi government have focused their attention on the threat posed by these groups, but it has diminished, though analysts are skeptical. The biggest security challenge facing Iraq's new government is restoring security to the country's major cities, including Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit. Iran's Shiite militias are still widespread, and observers fear that Iranian-backed militias will continue to operate with an agenda that does not necessarily align with the Iraqi government.
The predominantly Shiite cities in southern Iraq have been neglected, and the greatest national and international attention has been focused on reconciliation with Iraq's various communities in the liberated areas. Relative stability was taken for granted, but Iran has supported Shiite militias based and thriving in these cities, while the majority of people continue to struggle with poverty and unemployment.
American and British planes regularly flew missions to enforce a no-fly zone imposed to prevent Saddam from attacking the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Those people, and millions of Iraqis before them, had also regarded Saddam's worst enemy, the United States, as their enemy.
Knowing that Baghdad was home to some of the world's most notorious terrorists, the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the blacklist of states that support terrorism. The Iraqi military used Basra as a route to invade Kuwait in the first Gulf War, and ironically, US-led troops used Basra a decade later as a route to Baghdad during the 2003 invasion. Kuwait was a place terrorised by the Iraqi army for seven months before the air strikes began and the US-led coalition began the ground war. In the early stages of the U-2 war against Iraq, after recognizing its strategic value, both the Americans and the British made it their first city to invade.
The trauma is all too evident today, as six years of British rule have come under renewed scrutiny following Saddam's fall, and the expected publication of a new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq, the largest city in southern Iraq, puts the situation back to the test. Iraqi army units fled to Kuwait, tore down Saddam's square mural, and Saddam erected a monument to his war-dead generals and commanders, citing Iran as one of the main targets of his war crimes against the people of Iraq and the Middle East. The well fire they lit in Kuwait cast a damaging shadow over Basra for months until the city descended into anarchy.
Basra has large oil reserves, making it the hub of the Iraqi economy, and it is Iraq's main port. The city is located in southern Iraq, between Baghdad and Erbil, the country's two largest cities. Basra is the second largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, with a population of 1.5 million. Do: Iraq: Key Socio-Economic Indicators "provides a comprehensive overview of the economic, social, political and cultural conditions in southern Iraq, with a focus on Baghdad - Basras andErbil.
Iraq has an extensive railway system, called Mesopotamian Railways by the British, with stations in Basra and Baghdad. Although these have not changed much over the years, they are still very interesting to visit, especially in the summer months.