London report foresees civil war in Iraq after U.S. pullout

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

LONDON Iraq's failure to quell the Shi'ite and Sunni insurgencies will lead to a civil war with Iran's and Turkey's potential involvement, a London institute projected.

A new report said the failure by the interim government in Iraq to impose order in the country could lead to a civil war. The report by the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs said such a war would be likely if the United States withdraws its military from Iraq.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military reported 100 Iraqi casualties in fierce fighting with Sunni insurgents in Faluja. At the same time, the military said 34 people were killed in a battle with the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The military has sustained more than a dozen casualties in both engagements, and senior U.S. officials acknowledged that Iraqi cities could remain in insurgency hands until Iraq's military and security forces were capable of retaking them. "Even if U.S. forces try to hold out and prop up the central authority, it may still lose control," the report by the institute said.

The report cited several scenarios over the next 18 months. The best-case scenario envisioned government participation by the majority Shi'ite community as well as the smaller Sunni and Kurdish sectors.

But another scenario envisioned a collapse of authority throughout the country. At that point, the report said, Iran would extend its control over Shi'ite communities in Iraq while Kurds in northern Iraq would separate from the rest of the country.

"If Iraq fragments, then the neighbors cannot but become involved," the report said. "This would presage the potential unraveling of the state system that has been in place since the 1920s, and the U.S. intervention in Iraq would indeed have triggered a transformation of the region albeit not the one hoped for under the U.S. democratization agenda."

"The enemy is becoming more sophisticated in its efforts to destabilize the country," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday. "And recently, we've seen an increase in the number of suicide attacks."

The British report did not envision a dominant role for the U.S. military. It saw the military as providing increasing responsibility to the new Iraqi armed forces.

But the institute appeared to doubt the effectiveness of any interim Iraqi government or its security forces. Under the worst-case scenario, Iraq would become a haven for Al Qaida-inspired insurgents, including those fighting the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, the mixed city of Kirkuk would descend into civil war, pitting Arabs against Kurds. The report said this could trigger Turkish intervention.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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