Sectarian Strife in Iraq?
AP’s Hamza Hendawi has a good piece today on the way in which the Ashura bombings “strain the Iraqi social fabric.” He quotes me as saying that I don’t think civil war is likely, but that urban turmoil could break out. My point is that in Lebanon, where I saw the civil war with my own eyes, you had militias that marched in formation and engaged in set piece battles (often over tourist hotels, atop which you could position mortars and command the surrounding territory). The US and the Coalition armed forces can stop such militia battles. Even just a few AC-130s could. But if you got rioting between Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, those urban byways would be extremely difficult to police and that could be a major setback. The initial indications are that it is unlikely to happen, because all the Iraqi leaders are taking a very mature position, calling for national unity, and blaming outsiders. The problem is that there will be more attacks and sooner or later one may provoke rioting that spreads, at the level of the street, and becomes hard to control.