A quarterly Pentagon report to Congress had prowar and antiwar Americans again squabbling over whether Iraq is or is not in a state of civil war, AFP reported Friday.[1]  --  (In fact, the very use of the term "insurgent" implies some degree of civil war, as the Thompson-Gale online legal encyclopedia points out.)  --  A long report by the Los Angeles Times is a study in denial as U.S. officials cast about for consoling aspects of the report, which has no solace in it.[2]  --  AP published a useful analysis of how the civil war in Baghdad is shaping up:  "In the north, Shiites control an arc of neighborhoods -- Sadr City, Kazimiyah, and Shula.  In the south, Sunni militants are trying to consolidate power in another arc, comprised of Sadiyah and Dora.  --  The anchor of Shiite power is Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad."[3]  --  A separate AP story reported that Kurdistan's President Massoud Barzani has ordered that from now on the Kurdish rather than the Iraqi flag is to be flown in northern Iraq, "in what appeared to be another move toward more self-rule in the north."[4]  --  A piece in the Christian Science Monitor, meanwhile, showed domestic opposition to the war at an all-time high, approaching two thirds of American adults.[5] ...




September 1, 2006


WASHINGTON -- The conflict in Iraq has all the makings of a civil war, which can nonetheless be avoided, according to a U.S. Defense Department report.

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq. Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward civil war can be prevented," said the quarterly Pentagon report to Congress.

"Concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population and among some defense analysts has increased in recent months.

"The security situation is currently at its most complex state since the initiation of Operation Iraq Freedom," the report said.

In the past three months, "the average number of weekly attacks increased 15 percent over the previous reporting-period average, and Iraqi casualties increased by 51 percent compared to the previous quarter," it said, noting most of the violence occurred in Baghdad.

Release of the report on Iraq, where 138,000 U.S. troops are fighting, comes as the administration of President George W. Bush launches a new spin campaign to put a better face on the increasingly unpopular war before November legislative elections.

Bush recently raised the stakes of the ideological war over Iraq and flatly refused to withdraw, likening the war in Iraq to the battle against Nazism and and fascism.

"We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake," said the president, whose job approval ratings have sunk partly because of the war.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have already fired the campaign's opening salvos, giving speeches accusing Bush's critics of failing to understand the terrorist threat to the United States.

Reaction from opposition Democrats was quick.

"The Pentagons new report today indicates that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld's speeches are increasingly disconnected from the facts on the ground in Iraq," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

"Even the Pentagon acknowledges Iraq is tipping into civil war," he said.


World News

By Julian E. Barnes

Los Angeles Times
September 1, 2006


WASHINGTON -- In a dismal assessment, the Pentagon reported to Congress today that the number of attacks and civilian deaths in Iraq have risen sharply in recent months -- with casualties increasing by 1,000 a month -- as sectarian violence has engulfed larger areas of the country.

The quarterly report, based on new government figures, shows that the number of attacks in Iraq over the last four months increased 15% and the number of Iraqi casualties grew by 51%. In the last three months, the report says, the number of deaths and injuries increased by 1,000 people a month over the previous quarter -- to more than 3,000 each month.

Over a longer time horizon, the spike is even more grim. The number of weekly attacks has increased from just over 400 in the spring of 2004 to nearly 800 during recent weeks. And the number of daily casualties has increased from just under 30 a day in 2004 to more than 110 a day in recent weeks.

"Extremists seeking to stoke ethno-sectarian strife have increasingly focused their efforts on civilians, inciting a cycle of retribution killings and driving civilian casualties to new highs," the report says.

The report says that Iraq is not in a civil war, but acknowledged that Iraqi civilians are increasingly worried about such a conflict. It reports that Iraqis are optimistic about the future, but cautions that the positive outlook is eroding. Stopping the ethnic and sectarian violence is the "most pressing immediate goal" of the American military and Iraqi government, it says.

The report comes amid a new effort by President Bush and his administration to shore up sagging public support for the Iraq war in advance of the fall elections, but may do little to help the president's case. Administration officials have tried to portray Iraq as the front line in the war on terrorism and have described the effort as part of a larger struggle against Islamic extremists. However, by putting hard numbers to the perception that Iraq is increasingly chaotic, the new Pentagon report stands to further undermine support for the administration's strategy in Iraq.

The violence in Iraq, according to the report, cannot be attributed to a unified or organized insurgency. Instead, violence is the result of a complex interplay between international terrorists, local insurgents, sectarian death squads, organized militias, and criminal groups. The armed militias and other sectarian groups are contesting integrated neighborhoods in a bid to expand their area of influence, the report says.

"This is a pretty sober report," said Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of Defense for international security. "The last quarter has been rough. The level of violence is up. And the sectarian quality of the violence is particularly acute and disturbing."

In arguing that Iraq is not yet in a full-scale civil war, Defense officials pointed out that Iraqi security forces remain loyal to the central government and that no rival government has emerged.

"History tells us in many cases you do not realize it until it is staring you in the face, but there are important things that have not happened," said Rear Adm. William Sullivan, the vice director for strategic plans and policy on the Pentagon's joint staff. "The sectarian violence is worrisome. We are not blind to the possibility that this could continue down the wrong path."

Sullivan said he believed that despite the rise in killings, the U.S. was still making progress.

"The violence has increased, but it is primarily Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence," he said.

Although military officials in Iraq repeatedly have emphasized that the majority of recent violence is concentrated in Baghdad, the new report also says that violence has increased in Diyala, Mosul, and Kirkuk. The sectarian violence that has enveloped Baghdad, the report says, is now spreading to those cities.

"Any spread of sectarian violence is cause for concern," Sullivan said.

The report says part of the reason for the increased violence is that the attacks on civilians have driven people to "endorse extremist actions on their behalf" -- lending their support to the insurgent and militia groups in order to provide security for their neighborhoods. That dynamic is undermining the government's reconciliation efforts and ability to provide security.

According to the report, Moqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi army militia has achieved a "measure of tolerance" from Iraq's new government. But the report says that violence between the Al Madhi army and the Iraqi army is frequent, and says the militia receives support from Iran.

One key indicator of full-scale violence identified in previous Pentagon reports is the number of forced displacements of people and households. Although the U.S. military has been skeptical about reports of large numbers of displaced people in the past, the report quotes a U.N. estimate that 137,862 people have been pushed out of their homes since the Samarra mosque bombing in February.

The mosque bombing is widely seen as setting off the current cycle of sectarian violence. Sunnis allied with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the terrorist leader slain in June in a U.S. attack, were blamed for destroying the mosque, a holy site for Shiites in a largely Sunni city.

The report is optimistic about the new plan to increase security by promoting economic growth, but provides no numbers about the results of the renewed security initiative that began in earnest last month.

Rodman cited as a positive development the report's finding that the Iraqi security forces continue to grow in size and training, with the number of areas in which Iraqi army battalions have taken the lead in providing security expanding between October 2005 and August 2006. He said the number of Iraqi army battalions has increased from 23 in October 2005 to 85 today.

Also, major changes in the nation's police system are underway to address problems and deficiencies. The number of police battalions has decreased from 6 to 2. Last month, military officials said they had been forced to dissolve some national police battalions because they were loyal to militias, not to the central government. The report says public confidence in the national police has decreased and the program is being reformed.

"Unprofessional and, at times, criminal behavior has been attributed to certain units in the national police," the report says.

In its last report to Congress in May, Pentagon officials expressed hope that rapid political progress would earn confidence from Iraqis and blunt the increase in violence. However, delays in forming a new government under Prime Minister Nouri Maliki have quickly undermined those hopes.

Rodman said had the Iraqi government been able to form more quickly after the December election, the sectarian violence that rose from the Samarra mosque bombing might have been dampened.

The delay in forming a government really hurt, it was a partial vacuum," he said.

"For years people like Zarqawi have been aiming at this, trying to foment civil war," Rodman said. "In Samarra they hit pay dirt, in a sense. The system has been shaken by it."

The report notes that the violence has not subsided since the killing of Zarqawi in June. Rodman said although the U.S. has inflicted serious blows on his organization, Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group's role was not decisive.

"The nature of the conflict has changed," Rodman said. "And maybe Zarqawi's legacy was the Samarra bombing, the effects of which have lived after him."



** Religious tensions surface as Saddam loyalty no longer acts to unify **

Associated Press
September 1, 2006


[PHOTO CAPTION: Car bombs and rocket attacks blamed on sectarian violence destroyed this Baghdad neighborhood in mid-August.]

[MAP CAPTION: VIOLENCE DIVIDING BAGHDAD: Most of Baghdad's neighborhoods are divided religiously but violence has uprooted many Shiites and Sunnis, prompting fears that the capital is becoming religiously segregated. Sources: ESRI, National Imagery and Mapping Agency.]

BAGHDAD -- Four years ago this was a city where people mixed freely -- where, in most parts of town, no one cared if a neighborhood was majority Sunni or Shiite. Loyalty to Saddam Hussein was more important than religious identity.

But now a battle for Baghdad is well under way between the two major Muslim sects. Death squads are slaughtering people daily, and an estimated 160,000 Iraqis have fled their homes -- mostly here in the capital.

Out of that violence, a new but not better city is emerging. Many Iraqis fear that the result will be a Sunni west and a Shiite east, with the broad Tigris River snaking through the middle as the sectarian boundary.

The process ultimately could leave a legacy of bitterness and poison Iraqi society for generations. Each sect has legitimate claims to territory on both sides of the river that they won’t emotionally abandon. And no national Iraqi government can truly function if sectarian “no go” zones are scattered all over the capital.

Baghdad, Iraq’s largest city with a population of more than 6 million, is still a long way from that stark sectarian divide. There are many religiously mixed neighborhoods, and Shiite and Sunni enclaves remain on both sides of the river.

The mixed character of some neighborhoods, such as Jihad and Amariyah, is partly due to Saddam Hussein’s policy of rewarding government officials and Baath Party figures.

Spacious villas or plots of land in newly developed neighborhoods went to Iraqis based not on religion but on loyalty to the regime. Rich Shiite businessmen were as welcome as anyone, even in neighborhoods populated by officers from Saddam’s Sunni-dominated military.

But that peaceful coexistence began to change after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam.

Sunnis, suddenly powerless, saw the Shiite politicians and clerics who cooperated with the Americans as their enemy and legitimate targets in the sectarian struggle.


The rifts widened dramatically this year. After a Feb. 22 blast destroyed an important Shiite shrine in Samarra, Shiite hard-liners stopped listening to their clerics’ appeals for restraint.

Although reliable census data is unavailable, the city has developed historically with Sunnis in greater numbers west of the Tigris and Shiites, Kurds and Christians more numerous in the east. That general pattern has been sharpened and made more stark as tensions have risen and people have fled to neighborhoods where others of their “kind” live.

As the city reshapes itself, flashpoints are emerging. The core fight today is a struggle for control of the corridors into the city from the north and south.

In the north, Shiites control an arc of neighborhoods -- Sadr City, Kazimiyah and Shula. In the south, Sunni militants are trying to consolidate power in another arc, comprised of Sadiyah and Dora.

The anchor of Shiite power is Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad. It’s an almost exclusively Shiite community of 2.5 million people that is the stronghold of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, head of an important militia called the Mahdi army.

For the time being, Sadr City is a Shiite militia safe haven. Al-Sadr is a key supporter of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the prime minister angrily criticized the Americans for using excessive force in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on Sadr City in early August.

From Sadr City, Mahdi militiamen fan out across eastern Baghdad and use major traffic arteries such as Palestine Street to reach religiously mixed areas to the south and east. That gives them a degree of control along the eastern and northern routes into the city -- and they’re trying to strengthen that control.

Leon Franca Aziz, 61, a Christian, used to live in one of those mixed eastern neighborhoods until he found a warning spray-painted on the wall around his house: “Crusaders must leave or their heads will be our sons’ soccer balls.” He packed up and moved to Syria last April.

Sparsely populated areas just outside Sadr City also are good locations for firing mortars and rockets at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, to the southwest along the west bank of the Tigris.

To the west of Sadr City lies a second major Shiite stronghold -- Kazimiyah -- a neighborhood that grew up around the shrine of an 8th-century Shiite saint. Next over to the west lies Shula, a haven for Shiites driven from their homes elsewhere.

But wedged between Sadr City and Kazimiyah is a cluster of Sunni districts, chief among them Azamiyah, where Saddam hid when Baghdad fell to U.S. forces in April 2003. Azamiyah thus prevents Shiite extremists from moving freely between Sadr City and the two other Shiite strongholds to the west.

That makes Azamiyah a target for Shiite militiamen. Mindful of that, Sunnis in Azamiyah have formed armed neighborhood militias to guard against outsiders -- even those who in theory are there to protect them.

When Iraqi government police entered the area last April to set up checkpoints, many Azamiyah residents were convinced that Shiite death squads would not be far behind. The Sunni groups battled government forces for two days.

Meanwhile, across the city on Baghdad’s southern rim, lies another key flashpoint -- where Sunnis are pressing to consolidate power over the mixed, but mostly Sunni, neighborhoods of Dora and Sadiyah.

The arc they form along a bend in the Tigris River is another key point of control. It’s a route that Shiite pilgrims travel between Baghdad and a religious shrine to the south. But it also connects Baghdad to a belt of Sunni villages where al-Qaida and other Sunni religious extremists operate -- an area known as the “Triangle of Death” for its frequent attacks.


In this area, Dora is the prize. A once-fashionable neighborhood of spacious villas and leafy streets, it was home, before Saddam’s fall, to Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians who lived together peacefully. Now, Sunni extremists have been violently pressuring Shiites and Christians to leave.

Shiite physician Ahmed Mulktar, his wife and their four children left their two-story house in Dora in July for a cramped apartment in eastern Baghdad after he was kidnapped and told there was “no room for Shiites” in Dora.

“I didn’t have any other choice but to leave my house and move to another, safer area,” Mulktar said.

Sunni control of Dora also threatens Karradah, a mostly Shiite district across the Tigris that is controlled by the country’s biggest Shiite party. In late July, about 30 people were killed in Karradah in a coordinated attack of car bombs and a rocket barrage fired across the river from Dora.

Since then, U.S. officials have claimed some success in reducing the city’s sectarian violence with a major influx of troops. But restoring public confidence will take much longer, and in the meantime the city continues to segregate along religious lines.

Abu Saleh, a retired Agriculture Ministry official, moved from Shula, in the Shiite area, to Sadiyah in July after he and his wife were verbally harassed as “defiled Sunnis.”

“Moving to another place was a must,” he said. “But it was hard to leave everything behind.”



Middle East


Associated Press
September 1, 2006


SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq -- Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani has ordered the Iraqi national flag to be replaced with the Kurdish one in his northern autonomous region in what appeared to be another move toward more self-rule in the north, local officials said Friday.

The order was issued Thursday and applies to the Kurdish region, said Beshraw Ahmed, a spokesman for the Sulaimaniyah municipality.

According to Azad Jundiyanim, a member of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Sulaimaniyah, Barzani issued a formal message asking for the Iraqi flag to be lowered. The message was also broadcast on Kurdish radio.

Iraq's northern Kurdish region has slowly been gaining more autonomy since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

On May 7, its parliament in the northern city of Irbil unified the Kurdish region's two long-standing administrations, one headed by Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and the other by Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Kurds had until then enjoyed self-rule in three provinces of the north but under the separate administrations.

Sunni Arabs fear that Kurds are pushing for secession under the nation's new federal system, a step which, if imitated by the Shiite majority in the oil-rich south, would leave Sunnis with little more than date groves and sand.

The Kurdish region had been out of Saddam Hussein's control since the 1991 Gulf War, when the Kurds set up their autonomous region under the protection of U.S. and British warplanes. After the U.S.-led invasion, Kurdistan was the only region that did not witness major changes.

Iraq's new constitution recognizes Kurdish self-rule and provides a legal mechanism for other areas to govern themselves but within the Iraqi state.


Terrorism and security

By Tom Regan

Christian Science Monitor
September 1, 2006


A series of polls taken over the last few weeks of August show that support for the war in Iraq among Americans is at an all-time low. Almost two-thirds of Americans in each of three major polls say that they oppose the war, the highest totals since pollsters starting asking Americans the question three years ago. Many of the polls were conducted in advance of the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York.

A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll that surveyed the country, and more specifically residents of Washington and New York, shows that many feel the cost in blood and money in Iraq may already be too high and that Osama bin Laden will never be found. The poll also showed that 60 percent of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has increased the chances of a terrorist attack in the U.S.

"I think there's a fatigue about the price of doing these activities," said Robert Blendon, a specialist in public opinion at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "There's also a concern about the competency of how well we're doing them."

Some of the divisions are from political differences. For example, Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to think the cost of the terror fight may be too high and twice as likely to think Iraq is making terrorism worse. And this comes when the nation has gone five years without an attack possibly making the terror war seem less urgent to some.

Popular support for the war on terror helped neutralize opposition to the Iraq war for a long time, said political analyst Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "Now the negative effect of Iraq is dragging down support for the war on terror," he said.

On the question of which political party can do a better job of protecting the U.S., both parties lost support since an April poll. But in another sign of trouble for the Bush administration, the AP/Ipsos poll also shows that more Americans believe the Democrats will do a better job than Republicans, 47-40 percent.

A new CNN poll shows that only about one-third of Americans now support the war in Iraq, with 61 percent opposed. Fifty-one percent of Americans see President Bush as a strong leader, although he doesn't do well in other areas of the survey.

Most Americans (54 percent) don't consider him honest, most (54 percent) don't think he shares their values and most (58 percent) say he does not inspire confidence. Bush's stand on the issues is also problematic, with more than half (57 percent) of Americans saying they disagree with him on the issues they care about. That's an indication that issues, not personal characteristics, are keeping his approval rating well below 50 percent ...

Bush dismissed a question about his popularity during a news conference Monday.

"I don't think you've ever heard me say: 'Gosh, I better change positions because the polls say this or that,'" he told reporters. "I've been here long enough to understand, you cannot make good decisions if you're trying to chase a poll." He added, "I'm going to do what I think is right, and if, you know, if people don't like me for it, that's just the way it is."

A Princeton Survey Research Associates International poll conducted Aug. 24-25 for Newsweek shows that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the president has handled Iraq. A CBSNews/New York Times poll conducted Aug. 17-21 shows 65 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the president is dealing with Iraq. Among those who identified themselves as independents, 67 percent disapprove.

Finally, a survey by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that 60 percent of Americans believe screening of people who look "Middle Eastern" at airports and train stations is OK.

Quinnipiac's director of polling, Maurice Carroll, said he was surprised by the apparent public support for racial profiling. "What's the motivation there -- is it bigotry, or is it fear, or is it practicality?" he said.

The Quinnipiac poll also found that Americans considered the 9/11 attacks of more significance than the attack on Pearl Harbor. But the findings varied considerably among age groups, with 9/11 being the most important event among those 35 and under, but with Pearl Harbor being more important those 65 and older.

"People have fresh memories of 9-11 and many don't have any memories at all of Pearl Harbor, and those who do don't have fresh memories of it," said Bruce Schulman, a Boston University professor of history and American studies. "We also feel pretty confident that we know how the results of Pearl Harbor turned out, and we certainly don't know what the consequences of 9-11 are going to turn out to be.