There is no civil war in Iraq. I agree with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Conway, on this one.
On July 10th, he gave a speech in San Francisco and addressed the subject with the following, “I sat this week and listened to a United States Senator who criticized the U.S. effort in Iraq as being involved in an Iraqi civil war while ignoring the real fight against terrorism that was taking place in Afghanistan.
With due respect to the senator, I would offer that he is wrong on two counts. The fact is that there is no civil war taking place in Iraq by any reasonable metric. There is certainly sectarian strife, but even that is on the declining scale over the past six months…”
As one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a student of war and politics, and with direct access to all the information coming out of Iraq, I’m confident the Commandant is qualified to make those statements.
Knowing there is no civil war in Iraq is important, because it debunks the notion that our troops are somehow caught up in a civil war and that we need to change war policy accordingly.
Even Senator Nelson, in trying to find sensible resolutions to this battle (which I have commended him for doing) incorrectly bases his Nelson-Collins amendment on the premise our troops are caught in the middle of a civil war, which they are not.
It also throws water on the attempt by others to utilize the “civil war” reference with all the negative connotations of an impossible situation, much as they would venomously use the term “quagmire,” claiming “civil war” as a reason to surrender in Iraq.
Previously, one NIE report noted the country was approaching a civil war, but it never reached that level. More importantly, improved conditions in Iraq over the last 8 months definitely do not support the notion of a civil war.
The Commandant’s speech was given on July 10th, and already the trend during the previous six months was for a decline in sectarian strife. The progress made during those six months pales in comparison to the success achieved during the last two months since his speech.
Now that The New Way Forward and The Surge are completely staffed, they have shown even greater results, many detailed in previous weeks’ columns.
Anbar Province continues to be a model for the rest of the country. That same success is being replicated in other provinces. Military commanders this week reported a 75% decrease in violence in Baghdad during the last month. Tribal leaders are cooperating at unprecedented levels.
The improvements in Iraq are undeniable, and they are taking place in a country not sunk in a civil war.
Sectarian strife is not a civil war. It may be the exhibition of decades old disagreements between groups, but it is not civil war.
There were groups fighting because they felt powerless after the fall of Saddam or were unhappy with our presence. But that does not qualify as a civil war.
There have not been whole blocks of the population rising up and trying to start their own nations or governments within Iraq, both hallmark of a civil war.
The Islamic State in Iraq made an announcement along that line this week. However, with the capture of ISI terrorist leader Abu Shahid, we learned their group was nothing more than the Iraqi face Al Qaeda puts on its activity in Iraq. It is not a group of Iraqi’s rising up in a civil war against their own government. It’s just another Al Qaeda tactic to take over Iraq, and one of the reasons we need to persevere in the fight against Al Qaeda there.
Even Muqtada al Sadr, one of the most power-hungry leaders in Iraq, is not calling for a civil war or encouraging one. He has made past declarations to allow the government the time it needs to become established. Recently he ordered his followers involved with militia activities to stand down.
That is not the sign of a country caught up in a civil war.
One of the reasons for the decrease in violence throughout Iraq is the treaties and accords being made among tribal leaders of all different backgrounds, such as the one recently reached in the area around Taji. Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders have all agreed to fight any group committing violence against the population, regardless of the background of those groups.
This type of cooperation between different sects for the good of all is a scenario completely opposite that of a civil war.
In a recent meeting of Iraq’s national political leaders, Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds all came to an agreement on ways they can move forward together, areas where they feel they can cooperate for immediate results. Cooperation at the national level between the different sects is not reflective of a country suffering the throes of a civil war.
Claiming, whether mistakenly or intentionally, that civil war exists in Iraq, especially as grounds for policy change, will only lead to more mistakes and prolong the fight against terrorism.