Bill Totten's Weblog

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get Iraq's Civil War Over With

Two Options: More Occupation + Civil War, Or Civil War

by Ted Rall (November 28 2006)

If we pull out now, warn Bush's generals, Iraq will disintegrate into civil war. Experts counter that the civil war is already underway, and that what would follow a US withdrawal would be even worse.

"All indications point to a current state of civil war and the disintegration of the Iraqi state [if the US leaves]", says Nawaf Obaid of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We're not talking about just a full-scale civil war" after a US withdrawal, adds Joost Hiltermann, Middle East project director for the International Crisis Group. "This would be a failed-state situation with fighting among various groups" growing into regional conflict.

Think of the ferocious fighting that broke out after the Soviets left Afghanistan.

Neighboring countries - Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan - prolonged the bloodshed and destruction by arming proxy warlords. The Afghan civil war slowed to a simmer after the Taliban consolidated their harsh rule over most of the country. Hiltermann describes a similar grim scenario. "The war will be over Iraq, over its dead body", he says. "Regional war is very much a possibility". The winners will probably be the Shias, who will crush the Sunnis and transform Iraq into an Islamist state aligned with, but more radical than, Iran.

At least one of Iraq's neighbors agrees. "When the ethnic-religious break occurs in one country, it will not fail to occur elsewhere, too", Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned recently. "It would be as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, only much worse. Large wars, small wars - no one will be able to get a grip on the consequences."

With so much at stake in the war against Iraq, argues Arizona Senator John McCain, we ought to sending more troops, not pulling them out. He agrees with Pentagon planners, who want to add 25,000 or 30,000 troops to the 140,000 already there.

"The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation", McCain says. "It's not just Iraq that they're interested in. It's the region, and then us."

Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute describes the Pentagon's thinking about troop strength: "You ramp up in 2007 and then ramp it down to below 100,000 to maybe 60,000 or 70,000 in 2008, but we cannot go higher. We don't have a big enough military."

But then what?

The United States has two options in Iraq. First: It can pull out now, which will almost certainly lead to civil war along sectarian and tribal lines, and possibly to a wider regional conflict. Second: it can pull out later - and deal with the same exact consequences then.

Invading Iraq was the kind of idea that is so bad that, once it's acted upon, nothing can be done to redeem it. One of my prewar worries was that there were no viable, well-known and popular opposition figures ready to replace Saddam Hussein. The dictator had suppressed the Kurds, Shias and non-Baath-aligned Sunnis for decades; each would want to run the country after he was removed. "Iraq has a one-man thugocracy", wrote the neoconservative historian Robert Kaplan five months before the war in November 2002, "so the removal of Saddam would threaten to disintegrate the entire ethnically riven country if we weren't to act fast and pragmatically install people who could actually govern".

That didn't happen. In all fairness, given Ahmed Chalabi and the other ridiculous Iraqi exiles Washington had to work with, it never could have. Once Bush decided to get rid of Saddam, civil war became inevitable. The US accelerated the balkanization of Iraq by recognizing the nascent state of Kurdistan and sanctifying the ratification of a constitution that enshrines sectarian divisions in the form of privileges and semiautonomous fiefdoms under a virtually powerless federal government.

It's cold-blooded calculus, but where's the advantage in staving off the inevitable? Perhaps Iraq is destined to set the Middle East ablaze, or to collapse into a failed state like Somalia, or to disintegrate into partition and ethnic cleansing like Yugoslavia. It is likely that, after we pull out, a lot of people are going to die. Does it matter if they die now rather than 2008?

Long or short, the bloodletting of an Iraqi civil war is coming. Unlike the bloodletting of our current occupation, however, it will eventually end.


Ted Rall is the author of the new book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? (Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, 2006), an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.

Copyright 2006 Ted Rall

Bill Totten


  • Republican Politicians, such as George Bush Jr., are liars. 1.) The other day I saw a video showing Saddam preparing to arm his supporters to fight with sling shots, little triangle looking pieces of Iron used to pop tires, those cocktail bombs, and other primitive weapons. If Saddam had WMDs and was such a mad man as made out to be by the Bush administration then it diden't show in that video. Saddam diden't have operational WMD. If he did have WMD to use and he was soooo crazy, then he would have used them without hesitation.

    2.)I understand in Islam, Muslims don't like Jews and other non-muslims. Yes, Israel is on land that was owned by Muslims for a while during the ottoman empire. Now here is where the Republican reasoning is screwed up ->

    If Iran is wanting to get a nuclear bomb to get rid of Jews in the middle east so they can have their land back, that is stupid. You can't reclaim land that has had nuclear bombs exploded on it. They would contaminate their own land they want back. So either they want that land back or they want to kill jews. They coulden't have it both ways. Republican lies are so easily shown using logic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:13 AM, November 29, 2006  

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