Los Angeles Times

Basra was once a jewel of a city. Now it's a symbol what's wrong in Iraq

BASRA, Iraq - The freshwater canals that once honeycombed through the city earned it the name the Venice of the East. Elegant walkways flanked the Shatt al Arab, the river cutting through the city. Legend has it that Sinbad the Sailor embarked on a journey from Basra's shores.

Given its rich history and location, Basra should be booming today. It's a metropolis of more than 2 million, home to Iraq's only port and its main gateway to Iran. It's the capital of the eponymous province that, with more than 200 billion barrels of estimated reserves, provides a staggering 80 percent of Iraq's oil riches.

But the canals, what's left of them, now are lined with trash and exude a miasma tinged with the scent of sewage. A stroll along the banks of the Shatt al Arab offers little more than glimpses of

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