Testimony: Iraqi Force Development and the Challenge of Civil War
The Critical Problems and Failures the US Must Address if Iraqi Forces Are to Do the Job
March 28, 2007
Iraq is already in a state of limited civil war, and may well be escalating to the level of a major civil conflict. What began as a small resistance movement centered on loyalists to the Ba’ath and Saddam Hussein has expanded to include neo-Salafi Sunni terrorism, become a broadly based Sunni insurgency, and now a series of broader sectarian and ethnic conflict.
The current combination of Sunni Neo-Salafi extremist insurgency, Sunni Arab versus Shi’ite Arab sectarian conflict, Shi’ite versus Shi’ite power struggles, and Arab versus Kurdish ethnic conflict could easily cause the collapse of the current political structure. In the best case, it could lead to a Shi’ite or Shi’ite-Kurdish dominated government, with strong local centers of power, and an ongoing fight with Iraq’s Sunnis. In the worst case, it could escalate to the break up of the country, far more serious ethnic and sectarian conflict, or violent paralysis. It has already led to widespread ethnic cleansing in urban areas by militias and death squads of all three major ethnic and religious groups.
If Iraq is to avoid a split and full-blown civil war, it must do far more than create effective Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). No such effort can succeed without an integrated strategy to forge a lasting political compromise between its key factions: Arab-Shi’ite, Arab Sunni, and Kurd – while protecting other minorities. Political conciliation must also address such critical issues as federalism and the relative powers of the central and regional governments, the role of religion in politics and law, control over petroleum resources and export revenues, the definition of human rights, and a host of other issues.