2006 August 03 Thursday
Generals And Ambassador On Iraq Civil War Possibility

In public testimony before Congress the top two US generals in the Middle East consider civil war in Iraq a strong possibility.

WASHINGTON - Two senior U.S. generals told Congress on Thursday that growing sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims threatens to plunge Iraq into civil war.

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war," said Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command. The top American military officer in the Middle East was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff and thus the top general at the Pentagon, agreed with the assessment.

"I believe that we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war, but that does not have to be a fact," Pace said.

You have to figure their private assessments could be even more bleak.

"We can provide support, we can help provide security, but they must now decide about their sectarian violence," Pace said. "Shia and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other."

I'm counting on them to hate each other more.

I get the sense that the Bush Administration is trying to lower expectations far enough that if civil war breaks out people won't be shocked.

Asked about the generals invoking the specter of "civil war," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said aboard Air Force One: "I don't think the president is going to quibble with his generals on their characterizations."

A leak of the final diplomatic cable of the outgoing UK Ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, shows that Patey thinks civil war in Iraq more likely than not.

Mr Patey wrote: "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.

"Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt."

Talking about the Shia militias blamed for many killings, Mr Patey added: "If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing the Jaish al-Mahdi (the Mahdi Army) from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority."

Lawrence Auster has pointed to the significance of the huge shift in position of war hawk Ralph Peters toward the view that Iraq is going to slide into full civil war. The hawks are starting to worry about what happens to their reputations should the decay in Iraq continue. Things aren't going to plan and defense of what Hillary Rodham Clinton just referred to as "happy talk and rosy scenarios" has gotten embarrassing.

Update: Nancy A. Youssef of the McClatchy Newspapers says the Iraqi workers at the Baghdad bureau agree Iraq is already in a civil war.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, told Congress on Thursday that the violence in Baghdad "is probably as bad as I have ever seen it," and went on to say that the country could be headed toward civil war.

Nearly all of the dozen Iraqis who work for McClatchy Newspapers' Baghdad bureau - evenly split between Shiite and Sunni Muslims - reached that conclusion long ago.

Their observations have trickled out day by day in the scores of conversations colleagues have with one another about their lives and difficulties.

Read the full article for stories of killings and ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 August 03 07:46 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict

gcochran said at August 4, 2006 12:53 PM:

Peters wrote a decent book or two, once upon a time. But operationally, he's a waste of space: he takes years to see the obvious. No wonder he used to be in Army Intelligence. Sometimes I wonder how many of the prominent members of the talking classes are doing their job ( i.e dishonestly advancing some agenda and/or manufacturing happy talk for their bosses and readers) and how many are just damn fools.

I vote for 'All of the above' .

Rasfarengi - CASpears said at August 5, 2006 12:11 PM:

I wonder will the administration be willing to make serious back door deals with Iran over its nuke program in order to get them to stablize the Shiite population in Iraq? It is no mystery to anyone that many Shiite militias and parties are clients of Iraq. Iran has even (at least reportedly) made some deals with the Iraqi-Kurds.

Its funny to me because all this "war on terror" has done is strengthen Iran, a terrorist state. At first it appeared to me that Iran would be seriously hurt due to the fact that America friendly states and US troops are on almost ever border it has...Iraq, Turkey, Afganistan, and Saudi, as well as Bahrain. It seems that Iran has actually played this to their advantage by distabalizing the region and polarizing the Arab Shiites.

The key to this seems to be working with Iran to secure the Iraqi border and limit Shia "nationalism"...give the Sunnis more of a seat at the table, stop the attacks against them, etc. This will allow the US to focus more on the Sunni extremists. Could also undermind the Sunnis if they can get more of them active in the national goverment, but I do not think that will happen until America deals with the Iraqi-Shiite-Iran issue.

Think Iran is walking the line right now, they can promote this situation to hurt the US, but the distablization of Iraq to the point of anarchy is not in their interest either. They have an oppressed Arab and Kurdish population, not to mention Azeri, and on the otherside they have people off the Afgan and Pakistan borders. I think what they want, what they need is some security guarantees from the U.S. and more nonofficial power in what happens in Iraq and Afganistan, since they see themselves as a regional power. I'm not sure if Bush is willing to do that, but if he does not I do not see how Iraq and Afganistan will be stabalized. This all assume that a full scale assult and invasion of Iran is off the radar for the near future, which I think it is.

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