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A Civil War? Maybe We Have It Backwards Two Ways
Thursday, 14 June 2007 22:32
by Dal LaMagna

I've been in the Middle East for 10 days now, first in Amman, Jordan and now in Baghdad.  My goal is to hear what a variety of Iraqis have to say about how best to end this occupation and bring their voices to others.  That said, here's a recounting of a conversation I had with prominent Shiite cleric, Jawad al-Khalisi. We spoke about the current violence and what believes would happen in American forces pulled out.

I was startled when Sheik Jawad Al-Khalisi told me that there would be civil war in Iraq not if the American troops leave but if they stay!
I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly.
“If the Americans forces leave, are you saying there will be no civil war?” 
“Yes,” he said. 
I pressed him then, because many Iraqis I have listened to say that if our troops leave suddenly, a civil war could result. 

Potential for Civil War

I rephrased my question, wanting to make sure I understood. 
“If the American Forces leave suddenly, there will there be a Civil War. Is that what you are saying?” 
Jawad said: 
“The disorganized withdrawal and sudden withdrawal may lead to chaos and civil war because of the militias.” 
However, he also added that if American troops remain in Iraq, there presence would definitely lead to civil war and the American Army would be in the middle of it.
Our conversation continued (see the detailed transcript).  As he spoke, I listened and asked more questions.
It seemed that he was saying the current violence in Iraq is the result of a political war between those who want to divide Iraq and those who want a unified Iraq.  Americans may see it as a prelude to a sectarian civil war, but al-Khalisi was adamant that such was not the case.

Do We Have It Backwards?

So, perhaps we have it backwards two ways.
First:  We think that the strife in Iraq is sectarian, based on religious friction and factions.  But, according to Sheik Jawad Al-Khalisi that isn’t true, and it’s all about politics and whether to partition the country or keep it whole.

Second: We think that if our troops leave, the violence will increase, a sectarian civil war would break out and possibly spread through the Middle East.
During my time in Iraq, I hope to listen more, to see first hand what is going on, to learn what might and might not work, and hear from as many perspectives as I possibly can.

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