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Is Iraq On The Verge Of Civil War?

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When we went into Iraq a few years ago I wondered why we were so eager to keep the country together as one, with the Kurds in the north not being liked by either the Shiites or the Sunni’s. It made sense to give each 1/3 of the country and set up 3 governments, much like when the former Soviet Union split. However, I was optimistic that the American style “melting pot” might work. Pat Buchanan said last year that at some point he believed that there indeed would be a civil War: “no guarantee Iraq will remain one nation, no guarantee there will not be chaos and civil war.” [Worldnetdaily.com] With some his anti-Semitic comments and outlandish claims about the mideast, this is one of the few things I have to agree with him about.

Then this week we have been seeing in the news:

Fighting erupted in several western Baghdad neighborhoods Friday evening after the expiration of a curfew that had been imposed throughout central Iraq after widespread religious and ethnic killings the day before.

While U.S. and Iraqi leaders continued to call for calm, there was broad uncertainty about the next steps to prevent Iraq from sliding into civil war.

Hours after Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a televised address that the government had secured religious shrines throughout the country, two rockets struck the tomb of Salman Pak, also known as Salman al-Farisi. Salman Pak was a seventh-century companion of the Prophet Muhammad, and Shiite Muslims revere his tomb.

Although the tomb has far less importance than the Samarra shrine that was bombed Wednesday – touching off the latest round of violence – Friday’s attack raised fears that Shiites would ignore the orders of their religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to refrain from violence.

Maybe now is the time for America to forget trying to set up the new government and train the new police. Maybe now is the time to just cut and run. America does not need to be involved in a civil war, and it appears within a month Iraq will be embroiled in a huge civil war between at least 2 of its 3 factions. The question is, will the Kurds join the fight? Which side will they join? Or will it be a three way war? Even the Iraqi President has said the negotiations this week between the Sunni’s and Shiites do not look good.

Mr. President, get our troops away from this Civil War. It is not our fight.

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  • Wallsy

    I think we have to assume that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was destined to be a disaster from the outset. The assumption that specific cultural and ecosnomic societal models could simply be brought to the Iraqi stage was either arrogance or innocently misguided. Yet we should expect more from our great leaders, surely. Then there is the issue of whether the invasion and occupation had anything to do with the stated reasons as of 2002/3. It is interesting to note that Bush only mentioned the “liberation” and such things after his other straw men fell down (WMD, Al Qaeda link etc). When it comes to Iraqi factionalism we should remember that despite its internal problems Iraq was still a secular nation, one of the few in the region prior to the war. Indeed, only today a union of Shiite and Sunni clerics came out in force to clam the populous in light of the recent bombings. We tend to, I believe, arbitrarily label the almost daily attacks in Iraq as either sectarian or Jihadist without really understanding each case in context. Furthermore, there is a tendency to frame the “coalition’s” role in that country as almost in the background and not as one of the main agitants to the current malaise. Quite often I hear from associates phrases such as “well, they were already killing each other” etc etc. I find such statements wholly ignorant and, again, decontectualised in order to obscure the causal reasons for why things happen. If we look at some of the history of Iraq’s internecine conflicts it seems to me that Saddam persecuted the Kurds, the Shiites and even murdered Sunnis who were not loyal or spoke out. The picture becomes all the more complicated when we consider that one Ilya Allawi, a secular Shiite, was a member of Saddam’s ruthless securtiy services. In other words, framing Iraq as purely sectarian only serves to excuse the US/UK for what it has in part created in Iraq: a divided religio-ethnic confederate system, but goverened by a fundamentalist Shiite core friendly with Iran and paralell to this a country ready to divide. Interestingly, and ironically, Ayatollah Sistanis’s sucessful grassroots rallying helped repel Bush and Bremer’s continual attempts at preventing elections, but the vaccuum created by the 2003 invasion has destablised the country and has turned parts of the country into a training ground and recruitment centre for Zarqawi who, incidentally, prior to the war, had no hope in Hell of contributing to a state of chaos in Iraq, since there simply wasn’t one to contribute to. Finally, the chaos we see today in Iraq was not inevitable. The Bush Administration destroyed Iraq’s secular social framework and infrastructure by attempting a tabula rasa beginning there. What this denotes is incredible ignorance, hubris, on the part of Mr Bush who, by all accounts, did not heed the warnings about an attack on Iraq and what the outcome would be. To make the claim we all had the same intelligence is, well, not intelligent. Since 1991 we have had records upon records of how that country has developed. Bush’s own Duelffer confirmed a lot of the points covered by Blix et al during the UN hearings. We do need to get out of Iraq, but we also need to apologise and to award reparations for the crimed of illegal and unjistifiable invasion and occupation. A further apology needs to be made to the families of Al Fallujah too. Only then will we be able to actually concentrate on the real threats in our world.

  • sfc ski

    The insurgents have been trying every way possible to incite a civil war or the better part of the last 2 years, beginning in April 2004 with Sadr’s uprising and continuing in its and spurts around the country, yet elections were still held, and a constitution was still agreed on, and young Iraqis still voluntarily join the police and Iraqi Army, most in order to bring some knd of order and stability to the country.

    Baghdad is not the entirety of Iraq, and many Iraqis outside of greater Baghdad are not rushing into the streets to kill every person of another ethnicity or religion.

    This is my second tour in Iraq, and while the job is unfinished, progress is being made on many fronts in the majority of Iraq.

    Why is it everyone who recommends we cut and run from Iraq can’t seem to think of the consequences past that withdrawal? Don’t they consider the probability that such a withdrawal will result in an even worse situation in a few years time, one that we cannot aford to ignore? Face it, this region is strategcally important to Americans as a whole, and stability here is in our best interest to see that we assist the IRaqi government in becoming strong and stable enough to maintain its own security, or risk creating the conditions that will allow for another IRan or Afghanistan to emerge from the chaos that will follow its collapse.

    Too many American pundits are far too shortsighted and impatient to see the efforts being spent in IRaq as anything but wasteful and regrettable, unable to understand that very little of enduring value is gained with no effort or expense. I just hope that my belief that most Americans know better and will let us stay to finish this most important undertaking.

  • Aside from the moral question of abruptly abandoning the Iraqi’s to their fate (which bluntly, is a pretty serious ethical question), the political and economic implications of a US pull-out would have severe reprecussions throughout the region, damaging stability across the Middle East and providing succor and assistance to the radical Islamists. A US departure would leave a power vacuum that would suck in the regional powers (Iran in particular, and Turkey in the north agaisnt the Kurds), causing the very sort of “failed state” environment that organizations such as Al Quada thrive in.

    Bluntly, as Colin Powell noted four years ago – you break it, you’ve bought it. The US is in Iraq for the appreciable future – in all probability for the next five to ten years in some form or another, and there in strength for at least the next two years. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican – you will pull out only at the cost of thousands of Iraqi lives, wasted American lives and billions of dollars worth of investment in Iraq. The people preaching unilateral pull-out are using the situation to play their own partisan political games – a pull-out solves nothing and is not a reasonable solution, it is a solution that would require the deaths of countless Iraqis to implement. Or do they just not count?

  • adam

    When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, digging further doesn’t get you out.

  • adam

    I think I saw this movie about 35 years ago. It appears to be a warmed over rerun.

  • Bliffle

    “I think I saw this movie about 35 years ago. It appears to be a warmed over rerun.”

    Me too. this mission was doomed by a Commander In Chief with no understanding of military strategy, who then fired any general who understood strategy and spoke up. This left career ticket-punchers, like Meyers, and yes-men: never a good bet for winning a war.

  • When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, digging further doesn’t get you out.

    I’ve never said it was a good choice, or even a viable one.

    Right now, in the short-term, if you pull out of Iraq, it will dissolve into the chaos of a full fledged civil war very quickly. For all the posturing and hand-wringing of the pundits over the current level of violence, the bombings and the deaths, they are nothing compared to what would happen if you kicked off a full-scale, no-holds-barred war between the various factions.

    The morality in essentially abandoning the Iraqis (for the second time, mind you) aside, what is the strategic gain you expect receive out of pulling out of Iraq?

    You will save money in the short-term, possibly reduce the cost in US casulties but aside from that what do you gain? The US will gain no praise or improved relations across the Arab worlds for pulling out – they will be seen as having been defeated. If anything, it will reinforce the impression fo the US as a dabbler in international power, one without sticking power or genuine committment. How many new allies will that win do you think?

    In addition, you will be allowing a key strategic region to dissolve into chaos and carnage…and it is sitting on and beside one of the world’s largest oil deposits. Like it or not, Iraq and the Middle East has a level of strategic geopolitical value, just allowing it to dissolve into anarchy and spawn a dozen new Al Quada’s is just not smart…an might lead you into a wider and more costly war down the line.

    I’d love to hear a viable strategic alternative (beyond the usual, “we shouldn’t have done it in the first place” – that train has already left the station). You could, I suppose, if you were cold-blooded enough, throw your support behind the dissolution of Iraq into three territories, manage the factional process, try to control the “ethnic cleansing” and then pull out claiming that you had done your best…It would probably take at least two years and at the end of the day you might have a tenuous solution …maybe..possibly…for five or so minutes, until Iran steps in.

    The only solution I can see involves staying in for the next couple of years until the main Iraqi government has the internal capabilities to manage on its own. If you have a more viable strategy that doesn’t involve hiding under a rock due to the consequences of your actions, I’d like to here it.

  • thank you all for your comments….as someone who has always said and still believe in finishing the job, I want to clairfy that the only way I support a cut and run is if this situation actually does break out into a civil war.


    Deano, very good points made in #7.

  • tommyd

    May I ask how it is going to be financially possible for the US to to remain occupying Iraq for 5-10 more years?