smart article from christian science monitor, yes moishe said christian science monitor (very good reporting)
Baghdad - The recent fight in Basra between Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen was about more than a government bid to reassert itself in a city where Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army was digging in. It was also about oil – and smuggling.
Before the assault began on March 23, the Iraqi government drew up a list of about 200 suspected oil smugglers it hoped to round up – including the brother of the governor of Basra Province and, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, several leaders linked to Mr. Sadr's militia.
For the government, which relies on oil revenues to fund most of its budget, the financial stakes are immense. While there are no accurate figures, an Iraqi parliamentary committee says that losses from oil smuggling run $5 billion a year.