Back in February 2004, Tom Engelhardt quoted a CIA report that said Iraq was on "a glide path to civil war." -- This article in last Wednesday's Financial Times suggests the prognostication was right on target. -- The director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, "warned that there could be an escalation in the conflict between the military arms of the two dominant Shia groups in the south of the country, because of a 'fracturing' of the Shia vote," the Financial Times reported. -- "He added that the poll could be also hit by a Sunni boycott similar to the one that afflicted the country's January parliamentary vote. Such a development could undermine the stability and legitimacy of any new government." -- As for the United States, IISS said it expects that U.S. to still have massive numbers of troops in Iraq even after Bush leaves office. -- The IISS also estimated that the mercenaries (or, as they are referred to by the Financial Times, "private security personnel") are now the second-largest contingent of foreign fighters in Iraq, after the U.S....
Middle East & Africa
U.S. WARNED ON LONG PRESENCE IN IRAQ AS CONSTITUTION APPROVED BY SLIM MAJORITY
By Daniel Dombey (Brussels), James Boxell (London), and Steve Negus (Baghdad)
Financial Times (UK)
October 26, 2005
The U.S. will likely have to retain a sizeable military force in Iraq even after President George W. Bush has left the White House, a leading London-based defense think-tank said yesterday.
On the day the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the conflict reached 2,000, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which publishes a comprehensive account of military forces around the world, said that plans by the U.S. to shift combating insurgency to Iraq's own army had not yet borne fruit, while rebels were showing considerable resilience.
Yesterday, a sergeant died of wounds suffered in a bomb attack on October 17, bringing the death toll for the U.S. military to 2,000.
The IISS report came as Iraq approved its new constitution by a slim margin in a referendum, with strong votes against the charter in Sunni provinces. "The next U.S. administration will have forces in Iraq, and a fairly large number for some years to come," said Patrick Cronin, director of studies at the institute.
He said that U.S. troop withdrawals next year were likely only to be small scale and that it would take "five years at least" for Iraq to generate the 300,000-strong army it needed to fight the insurgency on its own.
Mr. Cronin said the U.S. would need to maintain a substantial part of its 150,000 force in the country, even though private security contractors are playing a greater role. The IISS estimates that private security personnel are now the second-largest foreign contingent in Iraq after the U.S., and comprising a force more than double the size of Britain's 8,500-strong contingent.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said this month that problems with Sunni resistance to the constitution could call into question plans for "fairly substantial" troop withdrawals early next year.
Yesterday, John Chipman, IISS director, warned that there could be an escalation in the conflict between the military arms of the two dominant Shia groups in the south of the country, because of a "fracturing" of the Shia vote.
He added that the poll could be also hit by a Sunni boycott similar to the one that afflicted the country's January parliamentary vote. Such a development could undermine the stability and legitimacy of any new government.
The IISS also claimed yesterday that China spent $62.5bn on defence last year, compared with the government's official figure of $25bn. The report comes on the heels of warnings by Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, in China last week that the U.S. and other countries are increasingly concerned about the size of the Chinese military budget.
The IISS has not yet estimated Chinese military spending for this year, but the Pentagon estimates that it could be as much as $90bn.