BBC News – 2007-05-17 22:57:30
(May 17, 2007) — Iraq faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation, UK foreign policy think tank Chatham House says.
Its report says the Iraqi government is now largely powerless and irrelevant in many parts of the country.
It warns there is not one war but many local civil wars, and urges a major change in US and British strategy, such as consulting Iraq’s neighbours more.
The UK Foreign Office stated that security conditions, although “grim” in places, varied across Iraq.
“Most insurgent attacks remain concentrated in just four of Iraq’s 18 provinces, containing less than 42% of the population,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the Press Association news agency.
“Iraq has come a long way in a short time,” he added, saying the international community “must stand alongside the Iraqi government”.
It is not the first time that the Royal Institute for International Affairs – a highly respected foreign policy institution in London known as Chatham House – has been critical of American and British strategies in Iraq.
This latest paper, written by Gareth Stansfield, a Middle East expert, is unremittingly bleak, says BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.
There is not ‘a’ civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organisations struggling for power
Chatham House Report on Iraq
Mr Stansfield, of Exeter University and Chatham House, argues that the break-up of Iraq is becoming increasingly likely.
In large parts of the country, the Iraqi government is powerless, he says, as rival factions struggle for local supremacy.
The briefing paper, entitled Accepting Realities in Iraq, says: “There is not ‘a’ civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organisations struggling for power.”
Mr Stansfield says that although al-Qaeda is challenged in some areas by local leaders who do not welcome such intervention, there is a clear momentum behind its activity.
Iraq’s neighbours also have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US, the report adds.
The paper accuses each of Iraq’s major neighbouring states – Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – of having reasons “for seeing the instability there continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments”.
The paper says: “These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq.”
Mr Stansfield contends that the American security surge is moving violence to different areas, but is not overcoming it.
Certainly there is a growing sense in London and Washington that the American commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, is likely to ask for more time to continue the surge later this summer to deliver results, our correspondent says.
That will confront the Bush administration with a real dilemma, he adds.
US President George W Bush has vetoed a bill that would have set a deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Congressional opponents of the war believe that as a result, the president alone must now take responsibility for continuing America’s involvement.
The report urges the governments in London and Washington to include radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, who leads the Mehdi army, one of the major Shia militias, as a political partner and no longer treat him as an enemy.
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