Saturday, May 12, 2007

Who Is Fighting The Iraq War & Is It A Civil War

Over at the Daily Standard, Daveed Gerstein-Ross takes a look at the forces that are involved in hostiliities in Iraq. It is an important piece for several reasons, not the least of which is it allows us to begin to analyze the validity of the claim that Iraq is in a state of civil war.

Althogh Gerstein-Ross does not define the relevant terms, it is helpful to have some working definitions before reading his article.

Civil War: FM 100-20 (Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict) defines a civil war as: A war between factions of the same country [that meets these five criteria]:

1. the contestants must control territory,

2. have a functioning government,

3. enjoy some foreign recognition,

4. have identifiable regular armed forces,

5. and engage in major military operations.”

An insurgency on the other hand is something of a different magnitude. According to the Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, it is when citizens of a country organize to overthrow the country’s constituted government.
Four elements that "typically encompass an insurgency":

1. cell-networks that maintain secrecy

2. terror used to foster insecurity among the population and drive them to the movement for protection

3. multifaceted attempts to cultivate support in the general population, often by undermining the new regime

4. attacks against the government
Mr. Gerstein-Ross covers the various major elements involved in Iraq today. To give a short summary:

Sunni Nationalist Insrugent Groups: These groups have largely broken apart. Of those that are still viable, the violence for which they are responsible is negligible.

Al Qaeda in Iraq; The single largest threat in Iraq, even though it and its related organizations are under tremendous pressure from the ongoing counterinsurgency operation as well as a revolt by its onetime Sunni hosts. It combines foreign leadership directly linked to the main branch of al Qaeda, foreign jihadis who enter the country and often end up as the suicide bombers responsible for the major attacks and loss of life, but the bulk of the fighters are former members of Saddam Hussein's intelligence agencies and Revolutionary Guards.

The Mahdi Army; Once thought the greatest danger to Iraq's nascent government, support for the Mahdi Army seems to have dwindled enormously. What remains of the Mahdi Army today is a core of about 3,000 Iranian trained, equiped and funded militants.

The Badr Brigade: A militia with about 20,000 members, it has played a dual role in Iraq. It has been a stabilizing force on one hand, attacking both the Sadr militia and the Sunni militants. On the other hand, it played a large role in the sectarian violence after the 2006 bombing of the Mosque of the Golden Dome. It is just unclear at the moment which direction the Badr oranization will eventually follow.

Then there is the foreign element in all of this not otherwise covered above. Private donors in Saudi Arabia finance al Qaeda in Iraq. Syria allows its country to be used a throughway for weapons, cash and people into Iraq, and there is evidence of Syrian intelligence involvment in training insurgents. The largest foreign interference comes from Iran. They have directly involved themselves in sponsoring Shia militias, they are providing the deadly EFP's, and, although not mentioned in this article, we know from other sources of Iran's interference in the political process by bribery and cash donations to favored political organizations.

Do read the whole story here. It would appear from the article that there is no civil war going on in Iraq today, at least by the text book definition. What we are seeing are elements of an insurgency combined with significant foreign involvement on all sides.

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