July 24, 2006:
American military intelligence analysts folks are worried about the threat of a civil war along Shia-Sunni lines, and believe the danger is increasing. Nevertheless, although sectarian violence has been rising, analysts believe that, levels of violence aside, most of the other indicators are not yet critical. Even the most radical clerics have been careful to avoid "declaring war" on the other sects. The is a great relief to the Sunni Arabs, who are outnumbered and, for the first time in centuries, outgunned as well.
This relief is reflected in the way Sunni Arab leaders openly praise the American presence in Iraq, and the protection this provides for the Sunni Arab community. The Shia religious leaders know that preaching open warfare against the Sunni Arabs would be like throwing kerosene on a fire. Decades of Sunni Arab tyranny has left wounds that will take generations to heal. Meanwhile, the Shia religious leaders have more practical personal considerations to worry about. While Iraq holds the primary Shia religious Shrines, those decades of Sunni oppression have allowed the Iranian clergy and religious schools to take center stage theologically. This brings up the Iranian-Arab split again. The Iraqi Shia want to work at making the Iraqi branch of Shia Islam the leading one. To that end, they don't want Iraq dominated by Iran, politically, or in terms of religion.
The problem with civil war in Iraq is that it's not possible to have a civil war in Iraq. That's because one side is too weak to muster much more that terrorists. Because of voluntary, and forced, departures from the country, the Sunni Arabs are only about 15 percent of the population. Moreover, because of American air power, any concentration of Sunni Arab gunmen would just provide a target for smart bombs. Declaring that there is now a civil war in Iraq ignores the fact that the Sunni Arabs have been resisting their loss of power for over three years. Military historians refer to this sort of thing as "mopping up" after a hostile government has been defeated. Saddam and his government were ousted in early 2003. But Saddam's followers fought on, and are still at it. At least those that are still alive and in a murderous mood. Call that a civil war if you like, but that doesn't make it one.