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September 13, 2006



The term "civil war" as a framing device for a narrative is batted around and around and around. I have yet to see, and the internet as Borges Infinite Library means that it may well be out there, a conversation giving us the "metrics" of a civil war. Otherwise we are trapped as Alice was with Humpty Dumpty who could tell Alice that a word "means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." See, Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (London, 1973 ed.), 114. For a beginning point in the discussion, may I suggest, Sambanis, Nicholas. "What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition." Journal of Conflict Resolution 48, no. 6 (2004): 814-58.


Sambanis is a good referent; he wrote in July that under his indicators, Iraq was a civil war.


Couldn't the prospect of Iran dabbling in Iraqi security, in conjunction with an American pullout, really be a good thing from the American government's perspective? Let the Iranians bleed themselves or their resources in the Sunni triangle rather than us doing so. The only way that the Iranian backed Shia can impose themselves on the Sunnis and Kurds is through wholesale ethnic cleansing of the northern half of the country. Though this has already begun in Baghdad and the surrounding areas(and in Fallujah by the US military), doing so throughout the entire Sunni and Kurdish homelands would only be a boon for American efforts to reframe the regional narrative into a Sunni/American/Israeli alliance vs. the Shia. The more civilians suffer, the more the US would solidify its control on the broader Sunni MENA region as the Sunni "Arab Street" mobilizes against something other than US policies.

So either Iran keeps the gloves on and enters into the same quagmire that the US is currently in, or it takes the gloves off and casts itself as a new super-villain at the head of the until now illusionary "Shia crescent."

Nur al-Cubicle

Saw Galbriath on C-Span, who says de factor division of the country has occurred. Barzani and Maliki are harded revolutionaries. Since we Americans don't do revolutions anymore, we have no clue of what's at stake for them, their fighters and supporters. But "you gotta me kiddin' me" if anyone thinks Iraq will be put back together.


On a slightly related note, what do you make of the phenomenon of American journalists and analysts referring to "Kurdistan" as if such a nation-state really existed? I've just gone through my own records and I have Cordesman, Pollack, Brookings and the NYT referring to "Kurdistan" as if it were a real country.

I understand the arguments for giving the Kurds an autonomous state - I live right next to East Timor, West Papua, Aceh, and if Timor-Leste can be made a state then surely Kurdistan can be - but to refer to it as if it already existed seems kinda sinister.

Peter Lee

Probably the one thing Iraqi Sunnis and Shias, Turks, Iranians, and Syrians can agree on is an abhorrence of Greater Kurdistan. After American troops leave, I would not be surprised if the government in Baghdad, presumably Sh'ia dominated, takes up rollback against the Kurds as a policy of national unity. Especially if the US steps up to support the Kurds, it would provide a handy anti-American rallying point and distraction for the government. Certainly, the Sunnis will shed no tears for the Kurds and their peshmerga militias. My layman's prediction: Baghdad asserts absolute control over Mosul; conquest of the Kurd areas is impossible due to a combination of US opposition, Kurdish military strength, and Iraq military weakness; countries in the region combine to keep the Kurds bottled up; the US shifts the weight of its strategic emphasis in Iraq to the Kurd areas, establishing them as our "Israel in Anatolia" or whatever you want to call it--a loyal, capable client and useful pretext/tool for inserting ourselves into the affairs of Iraq and Iran whenever we want to.

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