Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Civil war in Iraq?

RJ Rummel asks and answers one of the questions of the week:
With the bombing of the Shi'ite golden Mosque and aftermath, has the terrorist/insurrectionist war on the Iraq constitution, democratization, and Shia, become a civil war? No, not yet. Watch closely what happens to the new Iraqi security forces. If they divide into units and start fighting each other, then it's civil war.
As a test of whether civil war is real or just reported, that makes good sense. I for one sure hope Iraq doesn't explode into civil war, and that the attacks on civilians and Shia are mostly initiated only with the hope of enflaming civil war, and are short-lived. I sure hope so. But today's Iraq does look awfully like former Yugoslavia after the tyrant left, doesn't it, when all the pent-up centuries of tribal hatred became armed and dangerous and started looking around for blood to let.

Liberating the Iraqi slave pen freed Iraqis from Saddam, for sure, and it has now left Iraqis themselves free to take their future into their own hands -- in short they are free either to succeed or to fuck up. Jihad Watch suspects the latter, echoing the call byIraq's defense minister of the prospect of "endless civil war":
Of course it would never end. In fact, it hasn't ended, ever since the days of Ali. It has never ended, it has only fallen into abeyance now and again. Just as the jihad has never ended, but ebbs and flows with the resources and will of those who wish to pursue it.
Pessimistic maybe, but the Balkan parallel is all too clear. Jihad Watch's Hugh Fitzgerald counsels realism on this score:
Now the Administration is said to be "worried" about "civil war." The thing to worry about, if you are not in the Administration, but simply an intelligent Infidel, is why anyone in the government of the United States expresses "worry" about sectarian violence between different sects of mujahedin, who otherwise would be devoting their energies to our destruction.

And still worse, why do they "worry" about this sectarian violence "spreading" elsewhere in the Middle East and in Muslim lands further away?

I understand why the Al-Saud family should be worried. I understand why the Ruler of Bahrain (oh, did he promote himself to king yet? I can't remember) should be worried. I understand why the government of Yemen should be worried. I understand why the Sunnis and Shi'a in Lebanon might be worried. I understand why some Shi'a and Sunnis in Pakistan and Afghanistan might be worried.

But why, exactly -- please explain so I can get it through my thick skull -- should the Infidels in charge of the non-Muslim government of the non-Muslim (in everything which made America America) United States "worry" over the "threat" of Sunni-Shi'a civil war?

When the Balkans collapsed into inter-tribal warfare and Bosnian Muslims were being slaughtered by the truckload -- often while the UN looked on ineffectually and wrung its own bloodstained hands in dismay-- Margaret Thatcher stated the only viable solution: "End the [Muslim] arms embargo and seal the borders." If civil war does erupt in Iraq, that may be the only solution there too, but it does run the risk of leaving Iraq as the 'safe haven' for thugs that the war was originally intended to destroy. However:
...here is the American army, still smack in the middle of Iraq. It is still there, with money and materiel and men's lives being put on hold, and risked, and sometimes ended altogether. Meanwhile the pretense continues that a "united" army -- an "Iraqi" army, an army of "Iraqis" -- can be trained and produced beyond more than the handful that are now so carefully being nurtured and given endless amounts of care by the American soldiers who are their nurses. They are the premature babies who have to be tended to at every step. At this rate, we will be in Iraq, and spend another half-trillion, before there are even 20,000 "Iraqi" soldiers. They will be the only 20,000 Sunni and Shi'a Arabs, and Kurds, who will be found willing, at this point, to fight together -- which means, to trust their lives to each other.

It can't be done. Facts, history, that sort of thing - stubborn things. Remember?

Undue pessimism? Or a necessary dose of realism? If Rummel is correct, it's the Iraqi security forces themselves we need to watch in coming weeks.

UPDATE: Free Iraqi has his own take on the question as well: Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster?
...nothing would actually change on the ground if any side declares civil war. They are not likely to be able to take it to an open war and we would just have faces replacing masks... I think all this could have been avoided if it was not for the interference of Sunni Arabs and Iran. Now things seem to be too tense to resolve on their own. There's still a remote chance of resolving this without even needing to declare a civil war...and it lies in the secular She'at and Sunnis, the Kurds (if they decide to play a more positive role) and also the way the Americans will react to what may happen.
LINKS: Saturday responses - Democratic Peace
Iraq government warns of risk of "endless civil war" - Jihad Watch
Fitzgerald: The Shi'a, the Sunnis, and Bush - Jihad Watch
Cartoon by Cox & Forkum
Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster? - Free Iraqi

TAGS: War, Politics-World


  1. Those are some very different analyses, PC. It's interesting to see where they disagree. The first is semantic, of course. Any type of armed conflict within a country could be called a civil war. It seems like an American bias to assume that only organised military units fight a civil war - many civil wars involve non-state guerrillas, terrorists, ethnic militias, etc on one or both sides, as we see in Iraq. Regarding Rummel's post, I think the division and infighting involving the security forces is happening at least to some extent. I gather that most Iraqi units are either Shi'ite party militias or Kurdish peshmerga, but in uniform. I've heard of Kurdish plans to break away and sieze Kirkuk if a Sunni-Shi'a civil war occurs, which might be quite sensible, depending on Turkey's reaction. It also seems that unofficial death squads have formed within many parts of the Iraqi security forces and that they have been enforcing Islamic "justice" on civilians as well as bloody retribution on suspected terrorists.

    Civil wars often cause large numbers of refugees, organised crime, disease, economic and environmental consequences to affect surrounding countries. State failure has a tendency to spread to nearby countries (as in the Balkans and West Africa during the 90s). Particular consequences of an Iraq civil war (or an escalation of a current low-level war) could include the spread of insurgency to Saudi Arabia and possibly Iraq's other neighbours, Iraq becoming even more of a haven for terrorists, oil price shocks, and a terrible opportunity for Iraqis to wreak bloody havoc on the inevitable American withdrawal.

    Globalisation means that civil wars and insurgencies have significant indirect effects on many other countries, and insurgents use this idea to their advantage.

  2. PH: "Those are some very different analyses, PC."

    Indeed. Different analyses based on different observations, it seems. From this distance, its hard to know exactly what's happening on the ground, as the different analyses seem to show.


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