Iraq: Worse Than Civil War

For the last few months, top Bush administration officials have refused to admit that Iraq is currently in a civil war — disagreeing with many of Iraq’s leaders, U.S. troops in Iraq, and seven in ten Americans.

Recent estimates of Iraqis killed over the last three and a half years have ranged from 40,000 to more than half a million.

The simple fact of the matter is the situation in Iraq is worse than civil war — the world is witnessing at least four major internal conflicts in Iraq:

1) A Shiite-Sunni civil war in Baghdad and the central part of Iraq. For much of the last year, a vicious campaign of sectarian cleansing has been taking place in the neighborhoods of Baghdad and the surrounding central regions, with Shiite militias targeting Sunni Iraqis and Sunni insurgent groups bombing Shiite sites.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the latest killings this week in the central part of the country may be directly related to the lack of progress on the national reconciliation front. U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq have argued that the political solution, and not more boots on the ground, is the key to stopping the conflict: “you fix the government, you fix the problem.”

2) Intra-Shiite conflict in the south. Less noticed in the American media have been some battles between Iraqi Shiites in the streets of southern cities such as Diwaniya and Basra. In these clashes, intra-Shiite political disputes have being played out in violence in the streets — and in some cases U.S. forces have supported one faction versus another.

3) Sunni Arab insurgency in the West. The Sunni Arab insurgency continues to undermine security in the Western part of Iraq. The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq filed a report last month saying that the Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgent group has filled a political vacuum there.

4) Arab-Kurdish violence in the North. Violence and tensions have increased in northern Iraq between Arabs and Kurds, particularly in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

The Bush administration still does not have the right diplomatic, political or military strategy to deal with each of these multiple conflicts — all of which add up to a situation that is worse than civil war.

The United States needs to call for an immediate internal peace conference to put a stop to Iraq’s civil war, as the Center for American Progress proposes in its Strategic Redeployment plan.

Brian Katulis