Monday, November 28, 2005

Recipe For A Civil War

The leader of the major Shiite political party in Iraq has requested that the U.S. stop playing Mr. Nice Guy and let his militia go after their Sunni enemies.

Abdul Aziz Hakim, who leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), says in an interview with the Washington Post that the U.S. is being "too weak against Iraq's insurgency." He believes that his Badr Brigades would be able to defeat the "terrorists" with less interference from the United States. He stressed however, that he wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq in the meantime to continue to create a viable Iraqi military.

Hakim is basically laying out a formula for civil war. He claims to be against only the Sunni terrorists, but after living under years of persecution, it is hardly a secret that the Shias want to even the score.

The issue points to a key difference between U.S. officials and some of Iraq's conservative Shiite leaders about what it will take to end the insurgency. Even the top U.S. generals say the ultimate solution is a political one, bringing minority Sunnis into a democracy that without them stands to be dominated permanently by the Shiite majority. But the leaders of many Shiite religious parties, reflecting their years in exile and their bitterness over the killing of relatives and supporters during Hussein's dictatorship, say the endgame is a military one.

Hakim charged that the United States, evidently fearful of alienating Sunnis, was blocking the arrests of Sunni political leaders who had ties to insurgents. "The mixing of security and political issues" was just another U.S. mistake, he said. "Terrorists should know there would be no dealing with them."


Yet suspicion of the Badr forces runs strong among Iraqis, especially since the discovery by the U.S. military this month of a secret prison in central Baghdad containing what Interior Minister Bayan Jabar, a Shiite, acknowledged were at least five to seven detainees who had been subjected to torture.

Hakim said charges of torture have long been drummed up by Hussein loyalists, and he asserted that the U.S. military is often present in Interior Ministry facilities. American troops, he said, had been in the building where the prison was discovered "four times a week."

Hakim also made clear he wanted leaders elected in December to move forward toward creation of a massive federal region in the Shiite south, an idea he first broached in August before thousands of supporters in a ceremony in the Shiite holy city of Najaf marking the second anniversary of his brother's assassination.

Some Americans and Iraqis have charged such a state would put much of Iraq, and its oil, under a Shiite-controlled theocracy heavily influenced by Iran. But Hakim noted that the Kurdish-populated north already has such a region, and he contended that Baghdad, with its mixed population, and the heavily Sunni west should form separate regions as well.

The draft constitution voted in this year "approved that Iraq should become regions," he said. "While we want to form a region in the south, we strive to maintain the unity of Iraq."

The United States hopes that Hakim is honest about his desire for a unified country. This is not likely. If he is only saying this because it is what his listener wishes to hear, we will soon be looking at three countries where there was once one. The timing of a U.S. withdrawal will then only matter to the families of the Americans who will die while our elected leaders continue to try to ignore the inevitable by acting tough on terrorism to save their political careers.


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