Stepping Back from ‘Civil War’ in Iraq

The bombing at the Golden Mosque has not instigated civil war in Iraq

After the daytime curfew designed to limit sectarian violence in the wake of the demolition of the dome of the Golden Mosque was lifted in Baghdad, the city returned to ‘normal’, a relative term as Baghdad is a dangerous place to begin with. Reuters lists the Developments in Iraq for February 27, and the picture it paints is just another day of the insurgency in Iraq. It’s less than optimal but far from civil war.

The Reuters report also highlights a high tempo of operations by military and police forces in Iraq. Iraqi television reports the Interior Ministry’s Wolf Brigade arrested al Qaeda leader Abu al-Farouq al-Suri (the Syria) along with five other terrorists in the city of Ramadi. al-Farouq is described as “a senior Zarqawi aid” however he is a virtual unknown.

Evan Kohlmann warns we should be skeptical of Iraqi government statements at this time as “the political pressure on the Iraqi government to prove its control of the security situation might move it to make claims of success in matters of importance to Americans.” While this may be the case with Abu al-Farouq al-Suri, it is unlikely the operational details are being inflated. I personally saw the system used by Coalition forces to track ‘events’ across Iraq, and with American Military Training Teams embedded in Iraqi units, it is highly unlikely these statistics are being falsified.

Both Mohammed at Iraq the Model and Zeyad at Healing Iraq provide updates on the situation in Baghdad and the aftermath of the six days of violence in the city. They intimate the situation in Baghdad is stabilizing, and both share the opinion the police forces of the Interior Ministry are worthy of contempt, while the Iraqi Army units performed well during the crisis.

It should be remembered that 2006 has been dubbed “the year of the police” by the Coalition – meaning the main focus of Coalition efforts will be on training and integrating the police forces. Some police units are said to be wholly comprised of elements of the Shiite Badr and Madhi militias, and their performance during this crisis should be scrutinized by the Iraqi government. The Sunnis are talking about returning to the negotiating table to form a unity government. One of the Sunni’s sticking points has been the status of the Interior Ministry and the composition and control of the police battalions. Expect this issue to remain in the forefront.

The Iraqi politicians have the opportunity to prevent future problems such as those which occurred in the aftermath of the destruction of the golden dome by insisting on the disbanding of the militias and reforming and reorganizing the Interior Ministry battalions. If these reforms can be implemented the power of Sadr, and by proxy Iran, will diminish.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • serurier says:

    4 bomb hit Baghdad kill than 35 civilians . 2 Brit soldiers ( I believe Sadr’s militias do that )and 1 US soldier be killed . But it’s not civil war , just another day for Iraq .

  • JoeFromChicago says:

    These are just the 41 deaths we’re hearing about. The Iraqi government is hushing the true numbers. They claimed that 121 were killed in the first 3 days when there were 1300 bodies mostly killed execution style in the Baghdad morgue alone. We probably have no idea what’s going on in the other parts of Iraq.

  • Dj Drummond says:

    Outstanding work as always, Bill. Heard you on Hewitt yesterday.
    I hear al-Sadr is playing at the statesman again. What do you think he hopes to gain from this specific instrance? He already has his personal mini-army and a corps of political flunkies. What’s next and will he be stabilizing or the opposite for Iraq in the rest of the year?
    Again, thanks for all your hard work.

  • annoy mouse says:

    It is encouraging that the IA is performing well under what must be considered war time conditions. I’m sure that the US military training and embeds has played a roll in the IA success. In the case of the police force, I wonder if their training has any parallels to the armed forces. Nonetheless, it is most important that the Iraqi military be capable under the present circumstances. Assassinations, sporadic gunfire, and IED’s does not make for civil law enforcement environment. Is there is a schism between Iraqi military units and the ministry of the interior that might one day lead to a military take over? Oh well, I’m getting way ahead of myself.

  • When Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, says, “It was a serious crisis. I believe that Iraq came to the brink and came back,” the swiftness of his prognosis sounds like little more than wishful thinking. Less than a week after an event that has already resulted in 1,300 deaths, it seems way too early to be declaring that Iraq has clearly pulled back from the brink of civil war. Moreover, when US military spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, says, “The violence did not escalate, because of the measures [the Iraqi government] took. We had forces standing by if needed. Fortunately, that need wasn’t realized,” he is exaggerating the influence of elected officials, overestimating the capabilities of Iraqi and US forces, and minimizing the role of clerics in controlling the violence. While the US military and Iraqi government clearly want to sustain the impression that they have everything under control, a much more credible view of the situation comes from Capt. Gregory Stone, who said, “It felt — at times — like someone else’s war.” (more…)

  • hamidreza says:

    “… role of clerics in controlling the violence …”
    What sort of contra-factual analysis is this? Have you bothered to see what the politicized clerics are saying?
    Clerics are the prime source of instigation to violence, racism, xenophobia, sectarianism, and anti-state action in Iraq. Time to arrest them all and sentence them and their gun toting extortionist flock to long term labor camps.

  • “controlling the violence” was a carefully worded phrase. Moqtada al Sadr seemed to demonstrate his ability to both unleash and reign in violence, ie control the violence.

  • hamidreza says:

    As far as Moqtada al-Sadr has the “ability to unleash violence”, and we know that he has used said uh “abilities” so skillfully – he should be picked up and executed for crimes and murder.
    typical poststructuralist weasel words

  • Tim Solan says:

    JoeFromChicago and Paul Woodward,
    The 1,300 deaths reported by the Washington Post looks to be inaccurate. Thank God.
    At the bottom of the article it states:
    “The Washington Post reported Tuesday that more than 1,300 Iraqis had been killed since then, but Tuesday’s Cabinet statement described that account as “inaccurate and exaggerated.
    The Post cited figures from the Baghdad central morgue, but an official there told The Associated Press that as of Sunday night they had received only 249 bodies tied to the violence. The Post figure appeared high based on police and hospital reports from the major population centers at the time of the attacks.”
    Next time don’t be in such a rush to cherry pick and believe those type of numbers.

  • Tim Solan says:

    More doubts on the Washington Post’s report of 1,300 deaths.


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