Billmon on the Zarqawi Myth
Billmon does an excellent job of summarizing my argument that the Sunni Arab guerrillas (many of them rooted in the old Baath security forces) are attempting to provoke a civil war, and that they blame Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for their attacks on the Shiites. I think everyone has a reason to go along with this fiction (driven by anonymous postings to the internet). The Bush administration gets to fight “al-Qaeda” in Iraq (Zarqawi’s organization is actually al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, a rival of al-Qaeda). The new Iraqi government can plausibly deny that the problem is coming from fellow Iraqis, which helps forestall reprisal killings by Shiites. And the Baath gets to hope that it can someday coopt the Shiites again, who will by then be sick and tired of the violence and welcome a man on horseback who can restore order. (It is an unrealistic hope, but that does not prevent the Sunni guerrillas from entertaining it.)
The only thing I would add is that I think there are three models for the possible outcome in Iraq. There is the Lebanon model, the Yugoslavia model, and that Ethiopia model. In the Lebanon model, the major communities fought with one another from 1975 but managed to strike a new national compromise in 1989 that gradually led to a winding down of the civil war.
In the Yugoslavia model, Iraq would break up into several small states (Kurdistan, Iraqi Turkmenistan, Sunni-stan, and Sumer [the Shiite South], though it could split, too). This break-up would not necessarily lead to stability, and the statelets could fight with each other or host anti-American terrorists.
Ethiopia annexed Eritrea in 1961 and kept it until 1991. Ultimately it relinquished it and we got two states, not one. In Iraq, you could see Kurdistan hive off as Eritrea did, and the Arab Iraqis could have a relatively united state. This scenario also does not necessarily produce peace. As we speak, Eritrea and Ethiopia may be about to go to war with one another.
Personally, I think the 1989 Lebanon scenario would be better for the Iraqis and for the rest of the world, i.e., if the country can be kept together through accommodation of the main groups (including a federalism that the Kurds could live with.)