Dark Clouds Gathering?

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April proved a bloody month in Iraq. Just as U.S. troops were closing up shop in the cities, violence spiked. Suicide and car bombings caused the civilian death rate to soar – over 300 died, most of them in spectacular attacks inside Baghdad.

The Sunnis are complaining that the Shiites are not grant- ing them the status and share of resources that they were promised. Shiites are angry with the Maliki government for not suppressing Sunni violence. Voices have been raised in the Shiite community for the Mahdi Army of Moktada al-Sadr to take up arms again actively. Everyone, it seems, is angry with the Iraqi security forces, which appear to be rife with corruption and ineffective without handholding by American troops.

Meanwhile, the U.S. command is seeking to retain U.S. combat troops in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. It is also al Qaeda’s last big urban stronghold and a bone of contention between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

It seems clear that al Qaeda and diehard Baathists are working to reignite the flames of sectarian warfare just as the United States is starting to stand down. If they succeed, will the Obama administration re-escalate U.S. military involvement? Unlikely. Will we then witness a return to the bad old days of 2006-2007? It may be too early to tell, but I keep seeing visions of Beirut in the mid-1970s, which were the beginning of years of sectarian violence in Lebanon. Only when an outside power (Syria) occupied the country, did the violence stop.

Will we be occupying Iraq 10 to 15 years from now? Not likely. Will Iranian forces, in alliance with Iraq’s Shiite majority, be the occupiers instead? It could happen, and if it does what will the United States have achieved through its efforts? Answer in a word: nothing.

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