Brahimi Warns Iraqis of Civil War
UN envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi knows whereof he speaks when it comes to civil war. He is Algerian, and watched his own country descend into a downward spiral of violence between secularists and Islamists in the 1990s. He has been intimately involved in diplomacy in Lebanon, helping end the civil war that devastated that country 1975-1989, and in Yemen and Afghanistan (also a site of civil conflict on a massive scale). So when Brahimi warns Iraqi leaders that their selfishness risks plunging Iraq into a civil war, he should be taken seriously indeed. I am personally alarmed that he felt the need, after visiting the country for a week and widely consulting with its leaders, to issue this warning! AP reports, ‘ At a press conference, he appealed to the members of the Governing Council and to Iraqis in every part of the country to be ‘conscious that civil wars do not happen because a person makes a decision, ‘Today, I’m going to start a civil war’ ‘. He told Iraqis that civil wars erupt ‘because people are reckless, people are selfish, because people think more of themselves than they do of their country’. ‘
Talk of civil war in the Lebanese sense seems to me inappropriate for Iraq. I saw the first years of that war, and the militias mobilized for set piece battles over key real estate like the tall tourist hotels. (You could put mortars on top of them and dominate the surrounding area, so they were like Hamburger Hill). I don’t think militias can fight set piece battles in Iraq because the US could just mow them down with AC-130s, the way they did the Taliban and the Baath army to begin with.
On the other hand, the really troubling possibility is large urban ethnic or political clashes of the sort that occurred on a small scale in Kirkuk in January. The US military would be useless to control that sort of phenomenon; you can hardly have Specters fire into a civilian crowd, without risking fatally bad publicity. So if that is what Brahimi means, then it is a real possibility and we should all be nervous about it.