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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 4th, 2006 - 02:22:55

Iraq: bloodied, divided but not yet broken
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 4, 2006, 02:21

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Iraq is in danger of being split up into three autonomous states in 2008. According to the UN and a Pentagon report, the country is on the verge of a civil war. In August and September alone almost 7,000 Iraqis lost their lives due to sectarian violence and clashes with the occupation forces.

Some 200,000 Iraqis have been displaced, some having been forced out of their homes at gunpoint. Others have been the recipients of envelopes containing a bullet and a message: �Leave the area."

Hundreds of bodies have been discovered with marks indicating they were tortured. Honor killings among Sunnis and Shiites have increased. US President George W. Bush�s �New Middle East� has evolved into his worst nightmare, though, naturally, he won�t admit it.

An ABC poll suggests 75 percent of all Iraqis are united in one area. They support the resistance. They want the foreign troops out. At the same time, the country�s leaders hardly dare to venture beyond the fortified Green Zone, and are divided over Iraq�s future.

The Kurds, in particular, dream of an autonomous state that includes the oil-rich multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk. This would entail protection of any such fledgling state by Americans housed in four permanent bases as called for by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

The Shiites are split when it comes to discussions over their own autonomy. Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, the leader of the SCIRI party and the Badr Brigades, has said he would like to see an autonomous Shiite region made up of nine Shiite provinces. This has been ruled out by the fiery cleric Moqtada Sadr, who heads the Mahdi Army, because his following within and around Baghdad would be left outside any such Shiite zone without the benefit of oil revenue.

Almost all Sunnis are opposed to the break-up of Iraq preferring a strong federal government in charge of the nation�s natural resources.

In the meantime, the respected Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who until now has been a moderating influence over his Shiite followers, is said to have retreated from politics annoyed that his word is no longer considered law.

Young disgruntled Shiites are reported to be moving away from the ayatollah�s patient sphere to that of Al-Sadr, who is clear in his desire to see the 166,000 foreign soldiers gone along with over 20,000 mercenaries and 100,000 private contractors.

In short, Iraq is bloodied and divided. Even George W. Bush cannot spin it any other way in light of a slew of intelligence reports suggesting the country has become a cause c�l�bre for jihadists that is tipping toward civil war.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malaki promised to quell the insurgency and keep Iraqis safe but under his watch the violence has worsened. For all his good intentions and his interminable curfews, he is unable to unite the disparate factions.

Many of his problems stem from the fact that competing militias have infiltrated the Ministry of the Interior, the Iraqi military and the police. He further faces a daily balancing act between the good of his own people and having to kowtow to US interests. In light of such complexity, foreign interference and competing interests, what is to be done?

Firstly, Iraqis need a strong secular leader, a kinder and nobler version of Saddam Hussein or former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, if you like. Such a paragon would need to have the interests of all Iraqis at heart and must eschew sectarian bias.

Most of all he should be somebody all Iraqis could trust to build a better future. Iraq needs a man who is able to rally everyone around him, in the way that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah managed to do during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict.

At the same time, the Americans and their allies need to head home. Their very presence is as a red flag to a bull. Anecdotal reports suggest that most Iraqis believe the foreigners are purposefully igniting a civil war under cover of false flag operations.

Invariably cited is a 2004 incident when members of Britain�s elite SAS corps, dressed as Arabs, fired upon Iraqi police manning a checkpoint in Basra.

They were duly arrested and jailed when their car was found to be filled with explosives, only to be busted out by British troops, who used tanks to break down the police station walls.

Whether there is any truth in this theory is debatable, but judging from a paper written in 1982 by an Israeli journalist, with links to the Ministry of Information and various neoconservative white papers, it�s likely that the break up of Iraq into three once suited both American and Israeli interests.

But this may not be so today. From the US point of view, Iraq�s break-up would have to be contingent upon a defanged Iran, else any new Shiite state would likely align itself with its increasingly powerful neighbor.

America�s support of a new Kurdish state would alienate Turkey, a NATO country that America needs on its side due to its strategically important air bases.

If Bush�s wars had gone to plan, then either a pacified Iraq ruled by a puppet government or a weakened Iraq divided into three would have fit the bill. But, instead, Iraq has become a magnet for extremists, a recruiting tool for terrorist groups while its continued occupation elicits anti-Americanism throughout the region.

It�s clear that the Bush administration has bitten off more than it can chew.

A report from the British think tank, Chatham House, suggests the only country that has gained from America�s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is Iran, since both the Taleban and Saddam Hussein were Iran�s foes.

With its coffers lighter to the tune of $370 billion and 2,700 of its soldiers having returned home in body bags, what can America possibly gain by staying the course?

A new book, �State of Denial,� by veteran journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame suggests George Bush is deliberately keeping the truth about his failure in Iraq from the American people and refuses to pull out even if �Laura and Barney (Bush�s dog) are the only ones who support me."

Incredibly, the propaganda is still effective. A CNN poll indicates that 38 percent of Americans willfully ignore the facts and believe the war in Iraq is going �moderately well� or even �very well."

It�s true that Iraqis will require time to heal and put their differences behind them, but that process will never get off the ground until all foreigners leave, including foreign fighters. Iraqis lived in harmony before and God willing they can do so again if given the chance.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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