Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Saddam Hussein, the obstacle in the way of civil war

Every time Bush says, "Iraqi forces", someone should remind him that the term means Shi'ite and Kurdish forces under unified command.

Since January 2004, a chorus of foreign political and military analysts has been chanting, "Before it's too late, before it's too late."

Analysis by Reuters, via Le Monde | March 3, 2006 (Available to subscribers only, sorry!)

Civil war in Iraq, the worst-case scenario for the US military

Should Iraq fall into civil war, the United States will confront the worst of situations since the March 2003 invasion and may be forced to withdraw its troops. The risk of civil conflict has risen sharply since the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque of Samarra on February 22. The bombing sparked a wave of violence and reprisals between Shi’ites and Sunnis bearing in them the seeds of a conflict more deadly than the Sunni insurgency, active in the last few years against US forces and the new Iraqi government. According to information released by the Pentagon, more than 2,300 US soldiers have already paid with their lives for the military action decided by George Bush against Saddam Hussein. If total war breaks out – and Iraq seems very close to it – then the 134,000 men of the US contingent could find themselves in a situation of extreme vulnerability, especially if one considers the number of combat troops that we have there, says Ted Carpenter, an expert on defense matters at Washington’s Cato Institute. Any question of US troops breaking up factional clashes in Iraq is taboo -- and the Pentagon has reduced its combat brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15. The rest of the US contingent consists of troops assigned to support or logistical operations with no combat training. Should religious civil war break out, the British and Australian combat units present in Iraq will prove insufficient.

DEGREE OF LOYALTY. One possible option available to US military strategists is to support Iraqi security forces, which are slowly finding their strength in deploying a 20,000-man backup combat division and Iraqi special forces. But this scenario is based on the assumption of the loyalty of Iraqi troops and police to the Iraqi government above ethnic, tribal or religious affilation. Such an assumption is far removed from reality, says Ted Carpenter, who believes it plausible that large-scale clashes between rival factions will occur. If these cleavages explode into massive violence, the United States will find itself in a desperate situation, he adds, suggesting a forced and rapid retreat of US troops following the Lebanese example when US forces evacuated Lebanon after the 1983 bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut. Their departure this time would allow Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds to engage in a wide-open struggle and would seriously jeopardize the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country.

MILITIAS AND SELF-DEFENSE. Displaying absolute mistrust towards the Iraqi security forces, of which Kurds represent a large part, several militias, including the Mahdi Army of Shi’ite imam Moqtada Sadr, have already announced their intention to ensure the defense of their territory. Sunni Iraqis consider the “national” defense forces and police to be Shi’ites and Kurds on steroids, writes Stephen Biddle, an expert on defense questions for the Council on Foreign Relations. Ordering US troops into the fray would result in eliminating the actor most faithful to a stable and unified Iraq. In Baghdad, US military command is still confident, even if officers recognize that many Iraqis are terrified by the course of events. We receive emergency calls every day saying a mosque is on fire, even when it is only garbage burning. There is a great deal of tension and a lot of scared people, underscores Col Mike Beech. In Washington, George Bush insists that Iraq must have a government of national unity and excludes the idea of a schedule for the withdrawal of US troops. For the Iraqi people and its leaders, the moment of decision has come, says Bush, while rejecting the notion that the country is on the brink of civil war. General George Casy, Commander-in-Chief of US forces in Iraq is less categorical. Anything could happen, he said on Friday, but added: Is the violence now beyond control? Certainly not. It is premature to come to an opinion, says Anthony Cordesman, military analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies de Washington. A few more weeks are needed to determine the trend.


Blogger Leftist_Boddhisatva said...

You'll get a kick out of this:


11:13 AM  
Blogger Postman said...

"suggesting a forced and rapid retreat of US troops following the Lebanese example when US forces evacuated Lebanon after the 1983 bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut."

Smartest thing Ronald did. Don't fight a war you cannot win.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

LB, it is no coincidence that Berlusconi has the face of a stuffed pig. He's skewered and turning on the spit as he runs out the clock on his premiership.

Postman. In Lebanon, the US forgot to bring body bags and had to borrow them from the more cynical Italian contingent of Bersaglieri. You might add, "Don't forget that some of your men will die before you realize you can't win."

12:03 PM  
Blogger markfromireland said...


Civil war has just become a lot closer. Asharq Al-Awsat have published a story claiming that the Iraqi government knew about security threats to the dome. Here's the first two paragraphs.

"A leaked security memo from the Iraqi Ministry for National Security Affairs, headed by Abdul-Karim al-Anzi, and security reports seen by Asharq al Awsat allege that the outgoing government was aware of security violations around the Imam Ali al Hadi shrine in Samarra, two weeks before it was bombed but didn’t take any action to prevent the attack

According to a security report from the National Security Affairs Ministry addressed to national security advisor Muwafak al Rubaie, Prime minister Ibrahim al Jaafari’s outgoing government had detected terrorist activity around the Imam Ali al Hadi mausoleum in the historic Iraqi city last year. The report also claimed Iraqi Sunnis were directly involved in the dawn raid in which the famous golden dome, one the holiest Islamic Shia sites, was blown up. "

Full text (Arabic and English) here markfromireland and here gorillas guides If that's true (and Asharq Al-Awsat are widely respected and claim to have a copy of them memo) then this story is potentially far more more explosive than what was used to blow up the mosque.

One point - remember that Samarra is a Sunni town so the Waqf were responsible for security. Hence the story's emphasis on Sunni activity.

4:48 PM  

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