Looking for Signs of Civil War in Iraq


Reviewing the leading indicators that Iraq is sliding into a full scale civil war.


After the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque Samarra, the fashionable meme in the media is to declare Iraq is on the verge of a full civil war - if not already in the midst of one. Iraq has experienced random acts of organized and unorganized violence - in the sense that the retaliations have not been ordered from high levels within the government or religious parties, but are more of the "spontaneous" nature directed at the local level. Reports indicate there are attacks on Sunni mosques (Mohammed at Iraq the Model reports over 120 Sunni mosques have been at targeted by rifle and grenade attacks ar last count), with three Sunni clerics killed and up to 80 killed overall in violence, along with large protests.

By all indications, the situation in Iraq is tense, and the threat of continued violence is real. The possibility of a full-scale civil war is quite real as emotions are running high over the destruction of the revered Shiite shrine and the retaliation against Sunni mosques.

But the media has not asked or answered the following question: what exactly are the leading indicators for a full blown civil war - meaning the political leadership of the main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties no longer wish cooperate, and an open and organized battle between the parties ensues?

The following list contains the main lead indicators a full scale civil War in Iraq is underway:

• The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.
• Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.
• Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.
• Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.
• Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
• Major political figures - Shiite and Sunni - openly call for retaliation.
• The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.
• Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol.
• Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.
• Iraqi Security Forces begins severing ties with the Coalition, including:
o Disembeddeding the Military Transition Teams.
o Requests U.S. forces to vacate Forward Operating Bases / Battle Positions in Western and Northern Iraq.
o Alienates Coalition at training academies.
• Iraqi Security Forces make no effort to quell violence or provide security in Sunni neighborhoods.
• Iraqi Security Forces actively participate in attacks on Sunnis, with the direction of senior leaders in the ministries of Defense or Interior.
• Shiite militias are fully mobilized, with the assistance of the government, and deployed to strike at Sunni targets. Or, the Shiite militias are fully incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces without certification from Coalition trainers.
• Sunni military officers are dismissed en masse from the Iraqi Army.
• Kurdish officers and soldiers leave their posts and return to Kurdistan, and reform into Peshmerga units.
• Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.
• Coalition military forces pull back from forward positions to main regional bases.

Iraq has yet to encounter any of the problems stated above. The Sunni led Iraqi Accordance Front has suspended talks to form a government, but have not withdrawn from the political process. The Iraqi Security Forces have taken appropriate measures and suspended all leaves, but there are no indications they are cooperating with militias or abetting the violence in any way. There have been both encouraging statements by the Shiite and Sunni leaders. There also have been some irresponsible statements from the politicians on all sides, but this can be understood as tensions are running high. The Shiites are devastated by the destruction of the Golden Mosque and the Sunnis are horrified at the retaliation attacks. What is critical is what is said and done by these politicians in the next few days and weeks.



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READER COMMENTS: "Looking for Signs of Civil War in Iraq"

Posted by Scott Malensek at February 23, 2006 11:05 AM ET:

Fmr CIA agent Robert Baer was on Hardball a few months ago and said that Sadr was in Tehran and already discussing with the Mullahs how to start an uprising in Iraq early this year. He tied it to the diplomatic efforts re the Iranian nuclear program. Sadr last week pledged to back Iran in their program. Then there was the bombing, and now-guess who's blaming Israel and the US for the bombing? Yep, Iran's President. There's likely to be an uprising and violence, but I think the far bigger issue is Iran's nuclear bomb program. Last November, the IAEA, German, French, British, Israeli, and American officials all went on record as saying that if Iran had the centrifuges they were suspected of having-ones they have a record of buying parts from AQ Khan for, and IF they started enrichement (which they did in Jan), then they could have a bomb or bombs in months. Israel's intel and defense ministers said that March is the point of no return. Does anyone think that Iran's NOT trying to buy time? The only people who are clinging to the idea that Iran will take 10yrs to get a bomb (despite the fact that Oppenheimer did it 60+yrs ago in about 1000 days), are the ones in denial. I think Iran is behind the bombing, the surge in violence, and is trying to distract/buy time for their program. It's no accident that the FunnypaperIntifadah was most violent in Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. In all three places, there were reports that the rioters were actually soldiers, and there can be no denying that they were sanctioned at least passively by the govt (to say nothing of how it makes no sense to protest in Feb what was run in Oct without protest). Nope. The big story is Iran, and everything that happens from this point on...is going to be a subsidiary to events dealing with their nuclear program.

Posted by Alan Sakarias at February 23, 2006 11:30 AM ET:

Point 2 (Sunni withdrawal) has started. The Iraqi Accordance Front is boycotting meetings.

Point 4 (Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm) is half-way there. "Sistani seems to be threatening to deploy his own militia, Ansar Sistani, if the Iraqi government doesn't do a better job of protecting Shiites and their holy sites." - Juan Cole, Informed Comment

Point 5 (Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice) is increasingly the case. Tens of thousands went to his headquarters in Baghdad for guidance following the bombing.

Many of your other points are teetering on the edge of becoming true. The question is not "is Iraq now in a civil war?" The answer, now, is no. The correct question is has a tipping point been reached. Is civil war now inevitable. The Al-Askariya Mosque survived hundreds of years of sectarian division and decades of Ba'athist oppression of Shi'ites, it was destroyed in the third year of U.S. occupation. I fail to see how stability can flow from that.

Posted by Mark Buehner at February 23, 2006 11:32 AM ET:

-Whatever the CIA thinks is inevitably wrong.
-I doubt we know what Sadr was up to exactly in Iran, but if he intends to weld the Iraqi Shiia to Iranian policy he will probably fail. Iraqi/Iranian divide is not something to be taken lightly.
-Oppenheimer without a doubt had the greatest collection of scientific minds ever assembled on his project including argueably the greatest physicist (Einstein) and the greatest mathmatician(Von Nuemann) that every lived. Iran is not so lucky, and its better to have the minds than the blueprints.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 23, 2006 11:45 AM ET:

That's a whole lot of unsupported supposition for two different scenarios fellas. If it does flare up into a wholescale obvious civil war even the most ardent Bush supporters can't ignore it isn't going to be powerful men in Iraq who have everything to lose, including their lives, driving it.

And if Iran is behind the bombing of the mosque - which I think unlikely - they're not buying time, they're trying to jumpstart a bigger fight that will culminate in Iraqis chasing coalition forces out of Iraq. Bush would be hard pressed to rally American and Int'l. support for anything he wants to do militarily anywhere in the face of such a defeat. The "leave Iraq now" meme already is being played out on FOX TV, the house media organ of the Bush adminstration. Bill O'Reilly and other commentators are saying it's time to get out, there are too many crazies there for democracy to take root. Blaming Iraqis for the mess we've made of their country and Arabs for daring to vote for anti Americans seems to be the order of the day. Run with it fellas. Doesn't jibe with Bush's past statements but you can paint it as a noble failure. If you can get the American people to buy that spin it has the added benefit of never, ever making the administration take responsibility for it's biggest screw up. I doubt you'll be successful but you don't have much else to work with.

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 23, 2006 11:46 AM ET:

- Boycotting meetings is not withdrawing from the political process. It is taking a step back. If they have completely pulled out of the political process then I'd say yes. They are not there yet.

- "Sistani seems to be threatening to deploy his own militia..." Let's see evidence of that from a much more reliable source. Seems' certainly isn't 'is'.

- You've mistunderstood point #5. If Sadr becomes the focal point of the Shiites, and Sistani steps aside or is ignored, then there is a problem. Sistani is still the go-to voice of the Shiites, and I see no signs of this changing.

"Many of your other points are teetering on the edge of becoming true" is an assertion you haven't supported with facts, and the few you provided are weak at best.

An increase in the low-level sectarian violence should not be confused with a full blown civil war. I am not saying a civil war is impossible, but we'd have to see some of the points I mentioned above materialize in order to say for certain it has.

Posted by TallDave at February 23, 2006 11:50 AM ET:

Iraq has been in a civil war for decades. The massacre of Shia in the 1990s (still pulling them out of mass graves), the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s... this didn't start when we invaded, and I don't think we can expect it to end anytime soon either. There is going to be low-level fighting like this for a long, long time, because there are a lot of delusional Sunni Arabs who think they can seize power by force again.

We can't control whether there's violence. We can control who comes out on top, thugs or democrats. The thugs had the run of the place for a good long while.

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 11:55 AM ET:

Iraq is not any closer to civil war than any other unstable Middle East Nation where one sects mosque gets blown up and several weeks of riots kill hundreds. This happens in Packistan on a regular basis.

The over reaction by some in the left wing MSM (CNN, ABC etc.) reminds me of the overhyped al Sadr power grab (at the time it was reported to be some sort of general "shia uprising").

Posted by liberalhawk at February 23, 2006 12:05 PM ET:

excellent analysis Bill, quite helpful.

Some thoughts though. Sadr has positioned himself for some time as the friend of the Sunnis. Its Hakim and SCIRI who are more likely to lead revenge attacks, no? The MSM tends to confuse A. having a militia, and being a Shiite fundie with B. Being an extremist on Shiite-Sunni relations. But even from here that seems to miss the SCIRI/Hakim vs Sadr distinction. I guess Im more concerned about Hakim now, then about Sadr (which doesnt mean Sadr is not a longer term threat)

Posted by submandave at February 23, 2006 12:33 PM ET:

Mark, following your line of thinking no Cub Scout ever built a crystal radio set. After all, it took Tesla and Marconi years to invent wireless transmision and they were infinitely more brilliant than some 6th grader.

Bill is right that anarchy, even if directed, does not equal Civil War. So far both Shi'ia and Sunni political leadership have been working together to try and move past the emotion and violence. A Civil War requires at least two separate, autonomous political and military organizations with competing claims of legitimacy. Without a fractioning of the Iraqi Armed Forces there will be no Civil War, and a focus on Iraq as a diverse but single political identity has been a very heavilly stressed part of Coalition training for these forces.

Posted by JN at February 23, 2006 12:40 PM ET:

I see that you dismiss a poster as presenting few facts which prevents your response, but what are the facts on which you base this list? Seems like a lot of these indicators are merely indicators to you. Let's look at parts of this anyway.

• Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.
--How is suspension not withdrawal? Semantics, but ok.
• Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.
--They have been making a hard push for this from day one and largely succeding. But this has nothing to do with existing tensions and would merely be Kurds practicing self-preservation as they do not have a dog in this fight.

• Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
--What? The only Iraqi leader to openly stare down and beat the American army? This has already happened-pullquote:His followers won 32 of 128 seats gained by the UIA and as a reward for supporting a Jaafari premiership they are expected to get five cabinet posts in the next government.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1713411,00.html
• Major political figures - Shiite and Sunni - openly call for retaliation.
--Add some names, Al Sadr is already arming and coordintaing his people.

• The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.
--Why would they do this when they have already been so successful doing it covertly? Why expose themselves to an unwinnable war as an actual army or group when they can use civilians as cover?

• Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol. • Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.
tions in Western and Northern Iraq.
--You're joking right? You think this is really happening? this is the most corrupt ministry in the country.

• Iraqi Security Forces actively participate in attacks on Sunnis, with the direction of senior leaders in the ministries of Defense or Interior.
--Already happened and you know it.

• Shiite militias are fully mobilized, with the assistance of the government, and deployed to strike at Sunni targets. Or, the Shiite militias are fully incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces without certification from Coalition trainers.
--So in other words if the Shiite's declare war on the Sunni's? Yeah I guess that would be a pretty good signe that a civil war was happening.

• Sunni military officers are dismissed en masse from the Iraqi Army.
I couldn't find this but I am sure it would be interesting. Just how many Sunni's are in the army and particularly in the officer ranks? After the Bremer purge I guarantee you it is far below their pop % of 1/3. So I think this would be a trailing indicator not leading.

• Kurdish officers and soldiers leave their posts and return to Kurdistan, and reform into Peshmerga units.
--Once again this has little to do with the shia/sunni tensions and is really specific. Plus I do not recall the Peshmerga being disintegrated. Also I can't find Kurdistan on yahoo maps could you link it.

• Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.
--This is some sort of historically validated marker in civil war analysis, pretense of caring?
So if they keep blowing up the each others mosques it still won't qualify as a civil war until the leaders stop condeming it? The diplomacy and doublespeak will be nearly indecipherable, but one thing you can bet on is they will always be speaking to the world for advantage regardless of their true thoughts.

• Coalition military forces pull back from forward positions to main regional bases.
--This one is weird because I thought that it could also be an indication of success? Right? As they stand up we stand down, or as they stand on each other's throats we stand down.

"Iraq has yet to encounter any of the problems stated above."
--Yes they have so I guess they are in a civil war.

JN

Posted by Jay Manifold at February 23, 2006 12:46 PM ET:

With all due respect, "whatever the CIA thinks is inevitably wrong" isn't exactly analysis. The relationship to Iran's nuclear program may be tangential, but no one should doubt that Iran could have weaponized fission explosives in very short order. Einstein's work on the Manhattan Project consisted of signing a letter to FDR written by Leo Szilard. Any cutting-edge technology from the 1940s is trivial today. Little Boy wasn't even tested, and Fat Man went from prototype to combat use in twenty-four days. The critical-path items were uranium enrichment and plutonium production. Iran is engaged in the first and may be less than a year from the second.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at February 23, 2006 12:49 PM ET:

(Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice) is increasingly the case. Tens of thousands went to his headquarters in Baghdad for guidance following the bombing.

Moqtada AlSadr's main support base is in Sadr City, population 2 Million. Having a support base of 10,000, in a SLUM of 2 Million, is not actually a lot of support.

Think of Moqtada as the Iraqi Louis Farakhan.

Posted by Dave From Chicago at February 23, 2006 1:19 PM ET:

All I have to say is "we're screwed!" I'm pretty much speechless right now. What do are soldiers do if a civil war breaks out? Where do we go from there? Iran is getting involved and no one seems to be helping the US and UK. Seems like a big mess is going down in front of our eyes.

Posted by David M. McClory at February 23, 2006 1:52 PM ET:

There are still a lot of Sunnis horrified about the bombing, and a lot of Shi'ah protecting some Sunni areas.

What is a little sad is that the Shi'ah grown-ups took so long to mobilize, letting quite a bit of revenge to take place.

Sadly, look at what everyone is paying for not getting Sadr before.

Posted by leaddog2 at February 23, 2006 2:26 PM ET:

Bill,

I have followed and appreciated your writing for months. I am sorry to see you are now bothered by non-serious Trolls.

Posted by gordo at February 23, 2006 2:28 PM ET:

As a supporter of the President's policy in Iraq I am running out of patience. I hope that the government is finalizing a pull-out plan if Iraq blows up into a full-blown civil war. If a civil war happens, which is 50/50 at this point, we should immediately pull out most of our troops and send the rest to protect the Kurds who are real allies.

On a related note I have about had it with the so-called Religion of Peace. Its by far the most violent culture on the face of the earth and there is no indication of it moderating any time soon. Lets get off the oil binge, protect our borders, and use special forces to hunt down the terrorists. The Muslim world can go to hell.

Posted by Rancher at February 23, 2006 2:31 PM ET:

I believe Sadr is behind the bombing of the al-Askari shrine. He's certainly taking advantage of it. The main reason I don't think it was Al Qaeda is because those butchers would not have tied up the guards and removed from them from harm's way.

Moqtada and the Mosques

Posted by John at February 23, 2006 2:59 PM ET:

It's amusing to see all the gung ho types now rationalizing the latest turn of events in Iraq. In fact there has been a low level civil war going on for months and the latest happenings are just the latest escalation. The fact is we have destabilized the country and made Iran the dominant power in the region. The reality is we can do nothing about Iran's pursuit of the bomb and cannot even provide reasonable security in a country that we are supposed to be in control of. A few days ago Rumsfeld basically admitted we are losing the hearts and mind war ie. we've created millions more terrorist sympathizers. Would you say this has been half trillion well spent, not to mention the roughly 18000 killed and wounded. One wonders when the true believers are going to get out of denial.

Posted by Greg at February 23, 2006 3:00 PM ET:

Bill,

You state: "The following list contains the main lead indicators a full scale civil War in Iraq is underway."

You then list 16 conditions. What are the necessary and sufficient minimal set of conditions that satisfy your definition of a full scale civil war? Any one? All sixteen? Any set of 8?

I would suggest that of the 16, two should be eliminated since they deal exclusively with the Kurds and full scale civil war needs only involve the Shia and the Sunnis.

Of the remaining 14, two more should be eliminated since they deal exclusively with Iraqi relationships with the coalition, and a full scale civil war need only be between the Shia and the Sunni, the Coalition forces do not take sides and should be considered independent from a definition of civil war.

Of the remaining 12, the fact that the interior ministry does or does not investigate torture or death squads has no relationship to a civil war.

Therefore, of the remaining valid conditions, how many actually are necessary? Even if all 11 are necessary and sufficient, my observation is that the following conditions have already been met:

•The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.
• Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.
• Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
• The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.
• Iraqi Security Forces make no effort to quell violence or provide security in Sunni neighborhoods.
• Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.


I think you may wish to consider a corollary to your list of conditions:

What conditions are sufficient and necessary for a call for full coalition troop withdrawal?

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 3:22 PM ET:

It's amusing to see all the pansy types now trying to rationalize a small sectarian outburst in Iraq as civil war. Its more surprising to see them dismiss the birth of democarcy in the Middle East as a terriable outcome relative to the brutal but 'stable' dictatorship that was there before. Through out the cold war liberals decried support for anti communist "dictators", what changed?). Im not even going to mention the fact that we stopped Saddam from getting the WMDs he was developing (oh thats right, nukes are only a problem when Iran has them).

Posted by Mikemakesright at February 23, 2006 3:46 PM ET:

Mike you come off as a pretty tough character, but I can tell that you are also sharp as a tack. A pretty lethal combination, hope you exert those gifts with mercy. Like all Mike's (that's my name too! HAHA!)

Real quick. I thought the reason we went in to Iraq was because Saddam had WMD not to stop Saddam from getting WMD?

Is that right? I didn't get the memo-has it changed?!?!

You're right about the pansy part-surrender monkeys! HAHA! Damn wusses. Awesome post!


Mikemakesright


Posted by skip at February 23, 2006 4:08 PM ET:

Gotta love people like JN. their sense of self righteousness extends to insulting thier host.

Frankly people like JN post here IMHO because noboby would bother with their blog. Our gracious host has significant credibility and puts his opinions out there for all the read.

it takes a special kind of person to smarm the host, but hey, what a country!

I suppose it would be a good excersize to define a "civil war" in terms of Iraq. What does that mean? does it mean that individuals are shooting at each other? Or does it mean that organized forces under some form of central control are opposing each other with the goal of complete control over iraq?

My immediate reaction the shrine bombing was that this was an act of desperation. nothing I've read since has changed my mind on that. this is not the act of a group that feels in control of events, this is a new low in depravity and as they say desperate people do desperate things.

I wonder about a civil war for the same reasons that James Robbins at NRO does: the Shia don't need it because they've already got power, the Sunni can't win it and the Kurds don't want to fight, they're too busy building new lives.

personally I think the discussion of civil war is a symptom of the MSM's need to have a frame of reference for their story. They use the term civil war or civil strife because they can't spend the time it takes to clearly describe what's going on, it's too complex for the six second sound bites.

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 4:24 PM ET:

Well I guess mikemakes right makes a good point (not). Why would anyone want to topple a dictator who had used WMD and who still had the capacity to make them (read the Duelfeur report).

Who cares that there were hundreds of tonnes of partially enriched uranium have been removed from post Saddam Iraq.

Of course there were many other reasons why congress approved the libeartion of Iraq and that included spreading Democracy to a troubled part of the world.

On the other hand it might have been better to re-insert our heads in the sand and follow the Clintonian "it dont matter" approach that got 3000 Americans killed on 9/11/

Posted by beetroot at February 23, 2006 4:31 PM ET:

Yeah, looks like everything is groovy. It's not like that country was surrounded by wealthy nations eager to forment a civil war. It's not as if the freely-elected Iraqi government has virtually no enforcement power or police force at all. It's not like our troops are pinned down, hopelessly outnumbered, with no realistic chance of controlling insurgents, militias, or mass movements of citizens. It's not like we're three years into the occupation and can't even leave the green zone. It's not like the vast majority of peace-loving Iraqis, who do want to vote and be free and all that, aren't being held hostage by insurgent militias who have the money, the contacts, and the wherewithal to prevent us from establishing any of the stability needed to establish a stable, functional government. It's not like we've been occupying for three years and still can't provide electricity, let alone peace.

Sheeeeesh. "Sixteen indicators" indeed. That situation is completely FUBAR, the Bush administration and it's god-awful planning and preparation is 100% responsible, and people want to bleat about the "MSM" and its frames.

Here's a frame: we're not in control of that country. Nobody is. And the next President is going to have to win that war, because this administration has proven itself incompetent. None of this was unpredictable. All of it was perfectly obvious. And God help us if it keeps getting worse.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 23, 2006 4:38 PM ET:

The government leaders don't dare leave the International Zone unless surrounded by dozens of guards. The Kurd area is divided into two armed and guarded camps, they even have checkpoints between the two factions' territories. Utilities, employment security and oil production are all at lower levels than before the invasion. The insurgency doesn't have to win set piece battles to win, they only have to make sure we and our allies don't succeed in securing the country. Disruption is easy, our task is almost impossible. A lot of the population, Shia and Sunni alike are desperate, miserable and angry. At this point I'd take a civil war over the other option: a general uprising against the occupation.

Posted by eugene at February 23, 2006 4:41 PM ET:

beetroot, I was with you all the way up to here :

"And the next President is going to have to win that war,"

Nope - the war is unwinnable. The next President is going to have to withdraw - period.

Posted by JN at February 23, 2006 4:47 PM ET:

Skip, you come across as a human/sheep/parrot hybrid and not much else, rolling out that tired BS about the "MSM". Where are you getting your information from? What is NRO? Are you part of some sort of media underground? Please enlighten me to the complexities you perceive that I do not.

Hopefully I can expect more deep, thought provoking and original analysis like this "this is not the act of a group that feels in control of events, this is a new low in depravity and as they say desperate people do desperate things."

I may not have aggreed with this post, but I was hardly insulting. By the way the whole point of having a blog with a comments section (oddly you think I have one I do not) is to get responses. It leaves one vulnerable to criticism, but many feel it is worth the risk.

JN

Posted by skip at February 23, 2006 4:51 PM ET:

Gotta love it, the voices of doom and despair are having a field day! Pessism Pays should be the title of beetroot's post. He's got style, so I guess we can over look his inaccuracies, eh?

And again we see the Anti-war pro terror crowd playing it's favorite game "ain't it awful". they play this every chance they get. Ain't it awful that people are struggling. Ain't it awful that this is taking longer than seven minutes. Ain't if awful that ugly forces of evil and destruction are waging war amongst themselves in the ME. ain't it awful that this whole thing is taking attention away for the very important agenda items of the left: like extracting money from productive people and handing it to unproductive people.

Ain't it awful, ain't it awful ain't it awful.

such a joy to behold, the pessimists on parade.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at February 23, 2006 5:01 PM ET:

"Here's a frame: we're not in control of that country."

Take a look at the Watts riots in LA in 1965 -

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-watts11aug11,0,7619426.story?coll=la-home-headlines

or the LA Riots in 1992

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Los_Angeles_riots

Baghdad is bigger than LA.

Posted by Cruiser at February 23, 2006 5:13 PM ET:

I see a lot of nitpicking over Bill's attempt to define the signs that a civil war is beginning. I think the list is very good and I thank him for the effort that he puts into all of his posts, including this one. Anyone snidely criticising his post should step back and acknowledge that while they may not agree with all of the indicators, they do provide a useful framework for looking at the issue.

To Greg:

"What are the necessary and sufficient minimal set of conditions" - the more of them that are met the more likely there is a civil war in progress or approaching.

"two should be eliminated since they deal exclusively with the Kurds" - you are dismissing the fact that the Kurds are going to have a better idea when civil war is under way or imminent and observing their actions will be informative.

"two more should be eliminated since they deal exclusively with Iraqi relationships with the coalition" - watching the relationship of the coalition with respect to the iraqis will also be informative - do you actually belive it would not change if a civil war breaks out?

fact that the interior ministry does or does not investigate torture or death squads has no relationship to a civil war - I disagree. If there is a civil war the shia majority run ministry would not be investigating death squads - it would be directing military attacks on Sunni enclaves.


Posted by wf at February 23, 2006 5:33 PM ET:

All this defeatist talk again. Obviously, we are fighting an ideology - let´s name it Islamism as opposed to regular old Islam - whose representatives are as aggressive and reckless as they are patient. And the war is going on. What else did you expect? They did not surrender, while some fools who are ostensibly on our side have been speaking of nothing else for years, at the drop of a hat. I´m not given to conspiracy theories but the cartoon riots, the destabilization of Iraq and Lebanon and Pakistan - look at the timing - it´s becoming hard to believe in coincidence. This is their spring offensive. And since borders are pretty incidental to this kind of war, pulling out is hardly an option. We cannot simply choose to end this. Our enemies fear that we might succeed in building a better Iraq, which is a compliment of sorts. If they manage to start a civil war, they will have won an important battle, but it does not invalidate the mission. Battles can always be lost, but I should hope not because of a failure of nerves. Nor should we immediately turn on ourselves just because the rollercoaster of events proves too stressful, as seems the case with a few commenters here. Look: all this ebb and flow could be going on for another 5 or 10 years, or longer. If you think you cannot stand it, say to yourself: but they might win. KBO (keep buggering on). Doesn´t sound like much, but would be more dignified than wishful thinking or frivolous point scoring.


PS: If Saddam was still in power, how would this be an improvement? We would still believe he was just months away from getting the bomb himself. I can practically hear certain clever "realists" arguing that, well, at least he will be a counterweight to Iran, and how lucky we are the Russians are selling him some delivery systems, ha ha. What a wonderful scenario that is.

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 6:18 PM ET:

Some of the myths above.

Our troops our outnumbered.

A silly claim given: 120,000 US troops, 20,OOO coalition troops, 100,000 Iraqi troops, 20,000 insurgents.

We cant leave the Green Zone:

There is free movement in most of Northern and Southern Iraq.

Government has no police:

They have over 100,000 police.

We cant provide electricity.

In Most of Iraq power has increased from basically zero to about 10 hours per day. In Baghdad its gone from about 24hrs per day (with significant blackouts) to about 10 hrs per day.

We cant provide peace.

In 4 of Iraqs provinces there is a low level insurgency. In the remaining 12 or so there is not an insurgency.

Posted by cjr at February 23, 2006 6:38 PM ET:

In hindsight, I think this "episode" will turn out to be a useful exersize in the development of Iraq.

The "idea" of civil war is much easier to dabble with than the "reality" of civil war. My prediction is that the major parties will have an opportunity to look over the precipise and get a good look of what a real civil war might be like. And their uniform reaction will be to recoil in horror. After that, everyone will realize quite clearly that this is not the path they want to take. Then it will be back to the "business as usual" sans any talk of civil war.

This will probably take about a couple of weeks.

Posted by JN at February 23, 2006 6:40 PM ET:

Skip, Bill is probably cringing with your every post.

From Cruiser:
"Obviously, we are fighting an ideology - let´s name it Islamism as opposed to regular old Islam" It is an agreed upon fact that Iraq was the most secular country in the region, moreso even then Jordan. Saddam's money to Palestinian bomber's families was a publicity stunt and a way to tweak the US.

Wf opines:
"I´m not given to conspiracy theories but the cartoon riots, the destabilization of Iraq and Lebanon and Pakistan - look at the timing - it´s becoming hard to believe in coincidence." This makes no sense. The riots were a reaection to a conservative Dutch publications action-we're they working together? Who coordinated this?

Then Mike in response:
"We cant leave the Green Zone:

There is free movement in most of Northern and Southern Iraq. "
Yeah but what about outside the green zone and before you hit Basra or "Kurditstan"? That's the point. They just secured the road to the airport two months ago.

"100,000 Iraqi troops" This is completely disavowed by the Pentagon.

JN

Posted by hamidreza at February 23, 2006 6:54 PM ET:

Alan Sakarias says: "Point 4 (Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm) is half-way there. "Sistani seems to be threatening to deploy his own militia, Ansar Sistani, if the Iraqi government doesn't do a better job of protecting Shiites and their holy sites." - Juan Cole, Informed Comment"

This militia is like a private security company guarding religious shrines. It is NOT a death squad. The Samarra mosque was guarded by 4 night watchmen. The government was delinquent - but this is not a matter for Sistani ordering the creation of a militia and acting like another Khomeini.

Juan Cole is rather uninformed about Iraq. He is simply a poststructural reactionary-left mouthpiece.

Thanks for the excellent analysis Bill Roggio. I wonder when Juan Cole will spend 2 weeks in an Iraqi battle zone to learn about the Iraqi insurgency?

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 7:01 PM ET:

"Yeah but what about outside the green zone and before you hit Basra or "Kurditstan"? That's the point. They just secured the road to the airport two months ago."

From Basra to Karbala and from Baiji to very north of Iraq is mainly insurgency free. Thats the vast majority of the country.

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 7:06 PM ET:

If things were so bad in Iraq I would assume that many Iraqis would be regretting their liberation by the coalition. However, polling done in Jan of 06 by found:

Seventy-seven percent said the U.S.-led invasion to remove Saddam had been worth it, even keeping in mind "any hardships you might have suffered," while 22 percent disagreed.

Posted by Dave From Chicago at February 23, 2006 7:20 PM ET:

The sad thing is the poor leadership by the Iraqi leaders. Al-JAFARI needs to get his head out of the sand and start leading. If Iraq is gonna move forward they need their Abraham Lincoln.

Posted by wf at February 23, 2006 7:47 PM ET:

JN said: "The riots were a reaection to a conservative Dutch publications action-we're they working together?"


No, but the cartoons were published last September, and just a month later were reproduced in an Egyptian newspaper. Nothing happened back then. It may have been pure opportunism to use them now to mobilize angry muslims and unsettle the west. It was just the subject that was available at the time. But the timing was very good, wasn´t it? And it is noticable that it was first exploited in Iran´s area of influence (Syria, Lebanon, Palestinian territories) as well as in putting Musharraf and Karzai on the defensive.


By now we have learned some things most of us didn´t know 5 years ago: different terrorist groups with different aims can work together, and work with states they would fight at other times. Iran is connected to varying degrees with almost all of them. So it is no wonder they can exploit such opportunities on a global scale, even without a big conspiracy. Their allies and proxies just know what to do. They are very good at dividing their enemies, driving wedges in every crack. They know us very well, understand our self-doubts and chronic short-termism. They understand the value of violence and fear because that is the world they live in.


As for Iraq being secular, that is partly true - that is one reason why it made sense to try and democratize Iraq in the first place. But Wahabism was making inroads during the 90s - that is what Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote, and he´s not stupid. Saddam, another opportunist, was the biggest builder of mosques in the whole region and had a Koran written with his blood (or so he claimed), presumably not for kicks.

Posted by Jamison1 at February 23, 2006 8:07 PM ET:

There were really no riots in Iraq over the cartoons. There were by and large, peaceful demonstrations (and not really very many of those).

Posted by Cruiser at February 23, 2006 8:13 PM ET:

I agree with CJR, there may be some good that comes out of this. To date, the Sunnis have not paid a significant price for their tolerance (support?) of the AQ types who have been slaughtering Shiites. I think they are now getting a small taste of what the payback might be if the shiites are pushed too far.

I do not think it is ever "healthy" when a group is protected from the consequences of their behavior too much.

The same pricipal applies to the Palestinians. They are always protected from the full consequences of their bad decisions by the UN, EU, other arab nations. As a result, they never learn to make wise decisions.

Posted by Jamison1 at February 23, 2006 8:15 PM ET:

I too find it odd that the guards were tied up.

Posted by remoteman at February 23, 2006 8:40 PM ET:

Lots of huffing and puffing both ways on this thread. It is still early days following the destruction of the dome. I don't see anything definitive going on at this point that will lead one way or the other. I do see curfews and other thing that are designed to seperate the antagonists and let things cool down. That is an excellent first step.

I really don't give a rats what O'Rielly thinks we should do. He has demonstrated time and again that he is great at bloviating but not so good on analysis.

Patience and courage. Our enemy has it. Do we?

Posted by bombs away at February 23, 2006 9:40 PM ET:

JN said: "Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
--What? The only Iraqi leader to openly stare down and beat the American army?"

I think you better review your facts, bud. The fat little porkpie cleric crawled out of his hole and begged for forgiveness, if you recall. He's alive by the good graces of the "American army" you are so plainly ignorant of, the ones who crushed his "militia", otherwise known as a band of islamofascist murderers. Unfortunately, the hundreds of people his goons murdered during his brief fling with sharia aren't gonna be crawling out of the holes they're buried in, not any time soon, anyways.

A mosque got blown up. So what else is new? Things are proceeding ahead of schedule in Iraq. GDP has doubled. Iraqis openly state that they see things improving in their lives. Ignore the idiot media, and the Angry Left, they have an agenda, and it's a losing one, just like them.

And btw, whoever said we're tapped out militarily, and can't do anything about Iran's nuclear program, I got news for you. Think about, maybe, 8 carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf, along with several hundred strike aircraft in forward land bases, including the stealth and big ugly fat fellows, plus about 300-500 cruise missiles, all ready to blow up anything resembling a nuke site. I say 2 weeks worth of targeted action, and the sites are done for, expecially the centrifuge chain. Follow that up with about, oh, say, 25,000 ground troops, on a quick mission to insure the sites are destroyed, with a friendly air cover waiting to incinerate any Iranian general foolish enough to crawl out of his barracks. Then we depart, no occupation necessary.

Iran is quite a simple matter, folks, if it turns hostile, which I'm sure we all hope doesn't happen. But don't be fooled by the idiot media, we'll handle this one neatly, we have plenty of resources to handle the above mission.

Posted by Mike at February 23, 2006 10:34 PM ET:


I missed this on my first read of that post:

--What? The only Iraqi leader to openly stare down and beat the American army?"

LOL. OK, now I get that it was not a serious analysis (unless you think that al Sadrs two week rule of Najaf, during which he lost several thousand supporters/"militia", followed by his humiliating climb down was in any way a "win").

Posted by Enigma at February 23, 2006 10:34 PM ET:

It's unfortunate that every little nugget of bad news from Iraq is seized upon by some as vindication of the view that our efforts are doomed to failure. Perhaps, from our vantage point, the situation in Iraq seems pretty bad right now. But from an Iraqi POV, things have looked worse. Much worse.

Come to think of it, we've seen a lot worse ourselves.

Posted by Jamison1 at February 24, 2006 12:40 AM ET:

Do Sunnis guard the golden mosque? Could that be why they were tied up and removed prior to the blast?

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 8:18 AM ET:

Once again insurgents including Sadr know they can't compete with the US military in conventional warfighting. That's not the goal. In the early days of the invasion/occupation I'd venture to guess the vast majority of Shiites were willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. After the events of April 2004: the Abu Ghraib relevations, Sadr's uprising over the shut down of his newspaper and the first assault on Fallujah it was proven that US forces couldn't unilaterally impose their will by conventional means. Torture, destroying a major town, and a major religious center cost more credibility than it was worth militarily and we negotiated a pull back rather than annihilate the opposition. Destroying the village to save it doesn't work. Sadr proved he could and would fight
and survived to fight another day. He gained tremendous credibility among Shia with that stand.
They may hate him in Najaf and Karbala for making his stand in their towns and bringing the wrath of the US military down on them. In Sadr City and poor areas of towns and cities all over the South he's a champion.

The fact that US forces are confined to barracks right now points to the acknowledgement that our influence on the situation would only be negative. We can't provide security, our people would make a bad situation worse. Our troops serve no purpose in Iraq now other than to focus opposition and stifle reconstruction. It's time to go. The only way for Iraqis to resolve their differences is to let them do it. I doubt the majority wants to decide their future in an orgy of killing. We are so unpopular our usefullness as referees or buffers is nil. They want us to set a timetable for withdrawal. Let's turn those 4 permanent bases over to the government and go back to Kuwait.


Posted by Justin at February 24, 2006 10:09 AM ET:

Mark Garrity,

Go watch Frontlines latest report on Iraq and listen to what the former Major in Saddam's Army has to say about what would happen if the US just left.

Posted by Mike at February 24, 2006 10:41 AM ET:

Mark said:

Sadr's uprising over the shut down of his newspaper and the first assault on Fallujah it was proven that US forces couldn't unilaterally impose their will by conventional means.

This is a poor analysis given that the crushing of the al Sadr uprising and the liberation of Fallujah (the second assult unimpeded by Iraqi politics) clearly illustrated that the US forces can and do impose their will by conventional means.

Mark also said:

They may hate him in Najaf and Karbala for making his stand in their towns and bringing the wrath of the US military down on them. In Sadr City and poor areas of towns and cities all over the South he's a champion.


It clear that he is greatly diminished in Sadr City as well (since his organization also tried a last stand there with the same result in Karbala and Najaf). The long term relative peace and good progress on rebuilding in Sadr city support this view.

His support in the south is stronger in areas most influenced by Iran. However, most Shia dislike this because they still dislike Iran for the Iran-Iraq war.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 11:37 AM ET:

You miss the point Mike. We can smash any military force that dares confront us but to do so spreads the insurgency. Sadr conservatively probably has a million men and kids who'll take up arms in a losing firefight if that's what he wants. He has no compunction about sacrificing them to make us look bad or make him look tough.

That's what he's done. Sadr City is a no go zone for US troops and has been since April 2004. That's all Casey Sheehan's sacrifice and others like him accomplished. What long term peace and progress has been made in the slums of Sadr City has been done by Sadr's organization. They provide the services including supplying cheap gasoline the government can't. Just as Hamas and Hezbollah do in Gaza and Lebanon. Nobody dares hijack his trucks. In a nation that increasingly looks as dysfunctional as pre Taliban Afghanistan Sadr is becoming one of the powerful warlords.

Justin what does that major from Saddam's army do these days? If he's thrown in his lot with the Americans of course he wants us to stay. Like their Army of Chief of Staff he's not ready or willing to stand up so we can stand down. That doesn't bode well for our side. We trained the South Vietnamese Army for 10 years. We left them the third biggest Air Force in the world. It took 2 years and one major offensive for the North Vietnamese to rout them. You can't train or make other people fight for our beliefs when we condone torture and corruption. We have to take our stamp off of the effort because our support is viewed as illegitimate. All Iraqi parties had a plank in their election platforms saying they'd tell the Americans to leave. One of the major campaign slogans of the winning UIA was "We'll protect you where others have failed." They can't do that while protected by us inside the International Zone. They have to prove to the Iraqi people that can they protect themselves, the infrastructure and the people in that order. The only way to do that is tell them ready or not we're leaving on date X. Otherwise they'll continue to let us do their fighting for them while they jockey for the lion's share of the spoils.

Posted by Mike at February 24, 2006 12:03 PM ET:

Sadr city is clearly not a no go zone given that the US military is there building roads and sewers!

South Vietnam was conquered two years after the US left because democrats in congress refused to fund them while the north had money being pumped in by the USSR and China (not congresses finest moment).

It clear that present day Iraq is not close to being as disfunctional as Taliban run Afghanistan, after all it has a democratically elected government, a 100 000 man army and an oil industry that earned 25 billion dollars in 05 (up from 17 billion in 04). It also has a free press and internet (Iraqis blog from there everyday). Afghanistan under the Taliban was a stone age theocracy.

You clearly reveal the basis of your skewed view of Iraq by bringing up the Sheehans. Caseys mother is a fruitloop of the highest order (she thinks, among other insane things, that Chavez is swell but Bush is bad and that the troops should have be brought home from their "occupation" of New Orleans).

Posted by beetroot at February 24, 2006 1:36 PM ET:

comments deleted

Posted by Mike at February 24, 2006 1:59 PM ET:

comments deleted

Posted by Cruiser at February 24, 2006 2:02 PM ET:

Beetroot, Mark Garrity: you two have been so busy arguing with Mike to look at the news and see that your civil war has not erupted and that Mike is being proven correct. Sadr is calling for calm (somebody has his nuts in a vice) and all of the major religious leaders are calling for calm. Perhaps you should listen to them.

Do you think that the shiites can forever turn the other cheek about Sunni violence? The answer is "no". If they ever want it to stop it they know they have to deter it. What you saw over the past several is quite a restrained (IMHO), though disorganized, effort to deter future atrocities. The shiites are putting pressure on the Sunni's to end the violence and turn over the AQ types.

Posted by Greg at February 24, 2006 2:28 PM ET:

Mr. Bombsaway:

You state:

"Think about, maybe, 8 carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf, along with several hundred strike aircraft in forward land bases, including the stealth and big ugly fat fellows, plus about 300-500 cruise missiles, all ready to blow up anything resembling a nuke site. I say 2 weeks worth of targeted action, and the sites are done for, expecially the centrifuge chain. Follow that up with about, oh, say, 25,000 ground troops, on a quick mission to insure the sites are destroyed, with a friendly air cover waiting to incinerate any Iranian general foolish enough to crawl out of his barracks. Then we depart, no occupation necessary. "

Sounds exactly like what we did in Iraq. We came, we bombed, we got Saddam. We made sure there were no WMDs.

So, why haven't we departed Iraq? Why is an occupation of Iraq necessary? If you accept your assertion for Iran, you must accept it for Iraq as well.

Posted by Greg at February 24, 2006 2:36 PM ET:

Somebody please explain to me: Why are we in Iraq?

Do you seriously believe it's to bring Democracy?
Does the Bush administration care that much about Iraqis that we are sacrificing American lives every day?
Is it REALLY in our best interests to continue to stay?

Do YOU really care about the Iraqis, or are you really too prideful to admit that you are wrong and that our occupation was a mistake.

Bush reminds me of Pharoah when he saw the Nile turn to blood. How many more catastrophes and deaths of our first borns until he lets our people (in Iraq) go?

Posted by hamidreza at February 24, 2006 4:18 PM ET:

"Do you seriously believe it's to bring Democracy?"

You mean that if a segment of (Islamicized) Iraqis try to brutally fight democracy and civil society, then that somehow means the US never intended to usher democracy in Iraq, despite all the solid evidence (free press, 3 free and open elections, etc.)?

If Islam can stop the implementation of democracy, then does that mean the Iraqis don't deserve that and should be abandoned?

What makes you think that a brutal Islamic dictatorship of thugs is ethically equivalent to a liberal democracy?

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 24, 2006 5:13 PM ET:

beetroot and anyone else who feels a need to spinkle your posts with vulgarities: if you was to continue posting here, knock it off. I haveno patience for it.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 5:38 PM ET:

hamidreza you seem to have forgotten the initial plan to simply install a favored exile like Chalabi in charge that went by the wayside rather quickly when it became apparent that their claims of support in Iraq were as phony as their WMD intelligence. That was followed by the hamhanded attempt to foist a easily manipulated (friendlies only) local caucus plan on Iraq instead of elections. When Sistani threatened to put a million people in the streets Bush had to back off and agree to nationwide elections. If it wasn't for leaders like Sistani demanding it there would have been no elections at all. Iraqis tried Allawi, the handpicked US candidate first. He failed so badly he only won 18% of the vote in December. Now they have their SCIRI and DAWA led government. With each election they pick leaders further removed from our influence.


You're dreaming if you think we can control the outcome. There was a time when we had the credibility and capability to nudge the process but unfortunately that influence has been squandered. I think Greg's right. You guys just don't want to admit you're wrong and you're willing to sacrifice many more thousands in hopes that some miracle will happen to salvage this endeavor.

It isn't Islam stopping the implementation of democracy, it's Sunni tribes desperately trying to hang onto what they had and Shiites and Kurds carving out what they think they deserve. The Sunnis need us to stay to legitimize their resistance and Shiites and Kurds want us to fight their battles for them and pay for the damage 12 years of sanctions and 3 years of war have done to the country.

Posted by Enigma at February 24, 2006 6:00 PM ET:

Somebody please explain to me: Why are we in Iraq?

If Victor Davis Hanson, the mayor of Tal Afar, or this soldier who fought in Iraq can't answer your question, then nothing that anyone else can say ever will.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 9:30 PM ET:

hamidreza you seem to have forgotten the initial plan to simply install a favored exile like Chalabi in charge that went by the wayside rather quickly when it became apparent that their claims of support in Iraq were as phony as their WMD intelligence. That was followed by the hamhanded attempt to foist a easily manipulated (friendlies only) local caucus plan on Iraq instead of elections. When Sistani threatened to put a million people in the streets Bush had to back off and agree to nationwide elections. If it wasn't for leaders like Sistani demanding it there would have been no elections at all. Iraqis tried Allawi, the handpicked US candidate first. He failed so badly he only won 18% of the vote in December. Now they have their SCIRI and DAWA led government. With each election they pick leaders further removed from our influence.


You're dreaming if you think we can control the outcome. There was a time when we had the credibility and capability to nudge the process but unfortunately that influence has been squandered. I think Greg's right. You guys just don't want to admit you're wrong and you're willing to sacrifice many more thousands in hopes that some miracle will happen to salvage this endeavor.

It isn't Islam stopping the implementation of democracy, it's Sunni tribes desperately trying to hang onto what they had and Shiites and Kurds carving out what they think they deserve. The Sunnis need us to stay to legitimize their resistance and Shiites and Kurds want us to fight their battles for them and pay for the damage 12 years of sanctions and 3 years of war have done to the country.

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 9:31 PM ET:

Oops, sorry about the repost

Posted by Mark Garrity at February 24, 2006 9:48 PM ET:

Mark's comments have been deleted and Mark has been banned. Keep up the foul language, and I'll continue banning commenters. I have a zero tolerance policy on this from here on out.

Bill Roggio

Posted by Becky at February 25, 2006 11:11 AM ET:

In all of the above comments, innocent Iraqi civilians seem to be absent.