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.