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And It Is Still Not Civil War

Smoke rises over the northeastern section of Baghdad following a double blast in the area followed by sporadic gunfire, 09 July 2006. At least 42 people were killed by roving bands of masked gunmen who appeared to be targeting Sunnis in the Baghdad neighborhood of Jihad. AFP Photo/Patrick Baz
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Jul 10, 2006
The war in Baghdad took a turn for the worse Sunday as masked gunmen pulled at least 40 Sunni Arabs from their houses, cafes, and cars and executed them in cold blood. Iraq's President Jalal Talabani said it brought the country to a "dangerous edge." I thought it was already there.

The slaughter took place in a neighborhood called ­Jihad. The raid is believed to be retaliation by extremist Shiite groups, according to reports from Baghdad. Any Sunni who had the misfortune to be in the environs was killed on the spot, reported witnesses.

Units of the newly U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces stood by without intervening. Their silence and failure to intervene speaks volumes about the future of Iraq and just how much trust can be placed in these nascent security forces.

President George W. Bush likes to say that "as Iraqi forces stand up, American forces will stand down." Given that track record, U.S. forces may end up being in Iraq far longer than anyone hoped, least of all, the troops themselves. In fact, if we are to learn anything from history, President Richard Nixon used to say the same about the war in Southeast Asia: "As South Vietnamese forces become stronger the rate of American withdrawal can become greater."

And with each new such incident the reality of an all-out civil war hangs over the heads of all Iraqis. Perhaps the answer to Iraq's ills lies in an intriguing article by Ralph Peters, a retired Lt. Col., titled, "How a better Middle East would look," that was published in the June 2006 issue of Armed Forces Journal.

Peters claims that "International borders are never completely just." But, claims the author, "the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference -- often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war."

Therefore, the retired military officer puts forward an idea --­ more like a wish list of how to fix all the greater Middle East's woes. Of course a number of countries that stand to loose some territory, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan and might not immediately agree with Peters' plan to redraw the lines in the sand initially traced by Mssrs.

Sykes and Picot in the closing days of World War I. Peters says these borders were "most arbitrary and distorted," which he claims were "drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers)."

Peters remains a realist, thankfully. He writes: "No adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy." But he makes a case for the creation of new states, to house the Kurds, Baluchis and Arab Shiites.

"As for those who refuse to think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static," says Peters.

"Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works," adds the retired army officer. Look at the former Yugoslavia.

Peters starts off with "the border issue most sensitive to American readers, Israel." The Jewish state needs "to return to its pre-1967 border if it hopes to ever live in peace."

Then he comes to Iraq ­-- "A Frankenstein's monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts." He adds, "the U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad's fall."

According to Peters, "Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states." He says the United States "failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq's Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government -- which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will."

He correctly states that should a free plebiscite be held, "make no mistake. Nearly 100 percent of Iraq's Kurds would vote for independence."

Ditto for the Kurds of Turkey, "who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to mountain Turks in an effort to eradicate their identity." While the plight of the Kurds in Turkey "has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory." Peters sees the Kurds of Syria and Iran, rushing to join in forming an independent Kurdistan if they could.

In the new Middle East according to Peters, "Iraq's three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with a Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon: Phoenecia reborn."

The Shiites in the south of old Iraq would form the basis of "an Arab Shia State rimming much of the Persian Gulf." The great looser would be Saudi Arabia, which Peters would have broken up into parts for the Arab Shiite State, some parts to Yemen and other parts for the creation of a "super Islamic Vatican."

Peters sees Saudi Arabia as "A root cause of the broad stagnation in the Muslim world," and the way the Saudi royal family treats "Mecca and Medina as their fiefdom."

"Imagine how much healthier the Muslim world might become were Mecca and Medina ruled by a rotating council representative of the world's major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State -- a sort of Muslim super-Vatican -- where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed."

"Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible, for now. But given time -- and the inevitable attendant bloodshed -- new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once."

In the meantime Babylon continues to bleed.

Source: United Press International

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Japanese Soldiers Head Home As Iraq Mission Ends
Baghdad (AFP) Jul 07, 2006
Japanese troops in Iraq began heading home Friday as the first batch of 38 soldiers were flown out by British military choppers as part of the announced withdrawal, a military source said. "Thirty-eight Japanese soldiers left Iraq today. The actual troop withdrawal has started," the source told AFP, adding the soldiers left for Kuwait.

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