Report warns U.S. may face another major war in Iraq

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The United States could find itself fighting another major war in Iraq unless it quells the Sunni insurgency a major U.S. think tank has concluded.

A report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that the U.S.-led civil administration must act quickly to stabilize Iraq. The alternative could be the outbreak of a major U.S. war against the Iraqi people.

"It is far from clear that the United States can win this kind of asymmetric war," the report said. "The key lesson for the future should be that the strategic and grand strategic dimensions of psychological and political warfare are at least as important as the tactical dimensions of warfare. Effective operations must focus on conflict termination and nation building long before any actual fighting begins."

Meanwhile, the U.S. military commander in Iraq said he envisions American troops in Iraq until at least 2005. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said Iraq would require a U.S. military presence until the Iraqi army is completed with three divisions, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The problem is that after a great military victory, the United States and its allies have done far too little to win the peace," the report, entitled "Iraq and Conflict Termination: The Road to Guerrilla War?," said.

"Unless this situation changes soon, and radically, the United States may end up fighting a third Gulf War against the Iraqi people. If it does, this war will be primarily political, economic, ethnic, and sectarian."

"From a military standpoint, we will have three divisions of Iraqi military stood up in a period of two years, so at an absolute minimum we'll be here for that long, probably longer to be sure they're capable," Sanchez said.

The report, authored by senior fellow Anthony Cordesman, envisioned continued security threats to the U.S. military in Iraq. They included insurgency and ethnic tensions and threats as well increasing alienation of the Shi'ite majority.

The most likely scenario is that the United States will achieve sufficient progress in rebuilding Iraq to allow coalition troops to leave.

Such a scenario does not envision any transformation of the Middle East.

The institute criticizes the U.S. plan for a 40,000-member Iraqi military. The report said this constitutes a token military that leaves Iraq defenseless against Iran and Turkey as well as dependent on Britain and the United States.

The report said it could not predict how long the guerrilla war in Iraq would last. Cordesman linked the situation in Iraq to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"They must address the Arab-Israeli peace problem in ways that have considerably more visibility and success, and they must deal with a host of problems in rebuilding their relations in the Arab world and the West," the report said.

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