[Mb-civic] Civil War Most Likely Outcome in Iraq

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Tue Sep 7 15:01:59 PDT 2004

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  Report: Civil War Most Likely Outcome in Iraq
  By Tom Regan
  The Christian Science Monitor

  Sunday 06 September 2004

  Major British institute says breakup of Iraq is a likely scenario.

  While America's attention was focused last week on the Republican National
Convention in New York, and the world was watching the hostage tragedy
unfold in the small Russian town of Beslan, the prestigious British Royal
Institute of International Affairs (known as Chatham House) issued a report
saying a major civil war that would destablize the entire Middle East region
is the mostly likely outcome for Iraq if current conditions continue.
Reuters reported Friday that the report said the best outcome Iraq can hope
for is "to muddle through an 18-month political transition that began when
Washington formally handed over sovereignty on June 28." The Los Angeles
Times reports that the fragmentation of Iraq is the "default scenario" in
the eyes of the Chatham House team.

   'Under this scenario,' the report says, 'Kurdish separatism and Shia
assertiveness work against a smooth transition to elections, while the Sunni
Arab minority remains on the offensive and engaged in resistance. Antipathy
to the US presence grows, not so much in a unified Iraqi nationalist
backlash, but rather in a fragmented manner that could presage civil war if
the US cuts and runs,' it says. 'Even if the US forces try to hold out and
prop up the central authority, it may still lose control.'

  The Chatham House report, called 'Iraq in Transition: Vortex or Catalyst?'
was released last Wednesday. (Chatham House is often the scene of regular
international news events; British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently
gave a major speech there in August where he called for the overhaul of the
United Nations.) The organization's Middle East team came up with three
possible scenarios for Iraq, two of which would create real problems for the
US and its allies:

   If the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd factions fail to adhere to the Iraqi
Interim Government (IIG), Iraq could fragment or descend into civil war.

   If the transitional government, backed up by a supportive US presence,
can assert control, Iraq may well hold together.

   A 'Regional Remake' could overtake the other two scenarios if the
dynamics unleashed by Shiite and Kurdish assertiveness trigger repercussions
in neighboring states. Other Kurds would want their own independence, and
Shiites in other countries would be more aggressive.

   "The first scenario is the most likely," says the report.

   Shiite Arabs will not settle for a subservient position, Kurds will not
relinquish the gains in internal self-government and policing during the
1990s and Sunnis will neither accept a Shiite-led central government, nor a
Kurdish autonomy in the north. If the IIG or its successors fail to assert
itself as an organization capable of appealing across Iraq¹s societal
cleavages, Iraq will fragment.

  In an article in the New York Review of Books, former US ambassador to
Croatia, UN official in East Timor, and current senior diplomatic fellow at
the Center for Arms Control and Non- Proliferation Peter Galbraith writes
that "It is a measure of how far America's once grand ambitions for Iraq
have diminished that security has become more important than democracy for a
mission intended not only to transform Iraq but with it the entire Middle
East." Mr. Galbraith, who recently returned from his second long trip to
Iraq, agrees with the Chatham House worst-case scenario and also says it is
the most likely outcome. He writes that Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad
Allawi is a troubling choice to create the political stability that the US
and its allies so desperately need to keep Iraq from falling apart.

   Allawi's colleagues speak of him with evident affection, but even his
allies point to his shortcomings. Several of the INA's [Iraqi National
Accord, which Allawi founded] most respected leaders left the organization
because they objected to Allawi's authoritarian style, including an
unwillingness to heed advice and inability to delegate authority. As an
anti-Saddam activist, fellow exiles described Allawi as routinely
embellishing his credentials. He would claim to have had meetings with world
leaders that turned out to be fictional, and has said that he controlled
operatives inside Iraq who, in fact, never existed.

  But in an interview with the Nashville Tennessean on Sunday, Gen. Richard
B. Myers, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the recent
'successful' resolution of the siege of Najaf is a positive sign of things
to come.

   I think what we saw in Najaf was actually very good from the viewpoint of
Iraqis handling their problem. The solution there was the prime minister and
his cabinet working with (Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al) Sistani, the
cleric, and private leaders and government leaders working in partnership
with the multinational forces coalition there and finding the solutions ‹
which they found and which hopefully will last. Although the fellow (rebel
Shiite cleric Muqtada al) Sadr is not particularly reliable. He changes his
mind frequently, but for now Iraqis are in charge.

  An editorial in the Jerusalem Post last Thursday argues that what happened
in Najaf was actually the "best that could be made of a bad job." It said if
the US and the interim government had rolled over Moqtada al-Sadr and his
forces, they would only have reinforced in the minds of Iraqis the lesson
that they have been learning again and again since 1958: "he who is capable
of killing the most, wins a political battle." But the intervention of Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani may have changed the equation very much for the

   Sistani's intervention, however, changed the nature of the game. By
deploying what could only be described as "people's power," the grand
ayatollah succeeded in discrediting the tradition of political violence
established by the 1958 coup d'etat. He showed that one can win a political
battle without having to kill large numbers of people. The whole episode
could be seen as a lesson to Iraqis that politics need not be a win-lose,
let alone a zero-sum, game.

  Finally, freelance writer Yusuf Al-Khabbaz, writing in Media Monitor
Networks, looks at the occupation and rebuilding of Japan 60 years ago, and
the current day occupation and attempted rebuilding of Iraq, and finds the
two events have little in common, despite what politicians may claim. (For
instance, he says, Japanese offered little or no resistance to American
soldiers, and "by most accounts not a single one of the 150,000 American
soldiers in the occupying forces was attacked and killed by Japanese
citizens.") If Iraq is to be rebuilt, Mr. Al Khabbaz says, the successful
rebuilding of Japan cannot serve as a model because of significant
differences in the two occupations.



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