Britain has been fighting a proxy war with Iran in southern Iraq, but did not leave the city of Basra in defeat, an army commander said Thursday. Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, commanding officer of 500 troops who vacated their last base in downtown Basra on Sunday, said he believed Britain's campaign is at "the beginning of the end." "We are engaged, or we have been engaged, effectively in a proxy war with Iran," Sanders told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. He acknowledged that if the Madhi Army turns its sights on local Iraqi security forces, British troops may need to return to the city to help. Rival militias and Madhi Army fighters "have thrown just about everything they have got at us," Sanders said. "They have been unable to engage us in open fighting. We have been able to patrol around the city at will, on foot and in vehicles, any place or time of our choosing."