Strategypage has always kept a close finger on the pulsebeat of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they do another good job of explaining why mere sectarian violence does not offer the opportunity for any sectarian leader to openly declare war with the last paragraph offering the summary:
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.Actually there is one faction capable of mustering enough to do this, but they do not want to. Those folks are the KURDS. Also noted by Strategypage is the fact that another 60,000 New Iraqi Army soldiers are being fielded, most likely into quieter areas to relieve MNF forces of command, and that the US is concentrating on Baghdad and only bringing in limited re-enforcement and holding BACK orders for new troops to rotate INTO Iraq. This is what is known as a 'limited draw down via replacement', with the native Iraqi troops replacing MNF troops that have been on anti-insurgency and policing duties elsewhere. Strategypage has also done a nice summary of the players in the current low intensity conflict in Iraq and it is quite the hodge-podge of groups and outlooks and comes up with this succinct summation at the end:
While pundits go on about Iranian desires to dominate Iraq, the reality is more about vengeance against Sunni Arabs for past sins. Nothing too complicated, but it's a fire that's very difficult to put out.Yes, it is a mess in Iraq, but as the quieter provinces finally settle into their regular and age-old inter-tribal rivalries and are told to keep it down to a 'dull roar' OR ELSE by their New Army, things are getting better. Not INSTANTLY, but no one, and I do mean no one, expected that. But, as I have been pointing out the trend-lines have been good for going on two years now. Iraqi's now have total control with NO oversight by the MNF of one province outside of the Kurdish ones and more are slated to go in the coming months. Iran is already calling for Act II in the Eastern Med and trying to dictate to the Arabs from that vantage point, to use Lebanon as a missile platform to interdict shipping and commerce. They will push more to destabilize Iraq *if* they have the resources.
Iran did not expect Israel to forcefully go to war over kidnappings and missile attacks from Sovereign National Territories of its Neighbors. They have always overlooked the niceties of diplomacy and always gone for the grandstand and megaphone of the media. It is a rude awakening to find that they will need to resupply Hezbollah now that it is embroiled in a *real war*. Iran will try to broaden this into Iraq, no doubt... and be seen as interlopers and trying to dictate to ARABS what they should do. Yes, Persians trying to lord it over Arabs does not sit well in Iraq, no matter sectarian allegiances. Remember that Shia's VOLUNTEERED to fight Iran under Saddam and not 'forced volunteering' but WILLINGLY. And with fervor.
The US must act now to bring in one more partner to the conflict. I peg Egypt as it has been directly attacked and has an old alliance with Syria. Both can be used for pretext, as well as the Persians and Assyrians trying to dictate to Egyptians angle. Along with the threat of cutting off aid to Egypt if they do *not* help, but that sotto voce and the hint the aid goes to the NEXT in line, which is Jordan. The US can offer to do an 'Afghanistan' to Syria with lightly armed and capable military against an incapable State. If not Egypt, then Jordan. And if neither of those, then the Kurds who have a small and highly capable force *perfect* for liberating the Kurds of Syria... perhaps we can offer them land all the way to the coast so that all of Iraq then connects to Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. Now wouldn't *that* be an enticement?