10 January 2008
Iraq is now a three-sided conflict
There is probably not a better time for the Americans to up sticks and leave Iraq than right now. Luckily for anti-imperialists everywhere they seem unlikely to take the opportunity to proclaim victory and clear out. Thus the war will go on until finally they are forced out without the face saver that is available to them right at this minute.
What has happened over the past few months is not difficult to understand. The Sunni were waging a highly decentralised form of guerrilla warfare against the occupation forces. The strategy worked very well until about June of last year when the Askariya bombings brought them into open conflict with the Shia militias.
The Shia had built these militias up not to fight the Americans - although some conflicts had taken place - but to prepare for the post occupation civil war that everyone knew was on the horizon. Askariya just brought that forward and the Sunni guerrilla groups found that they were no match for the Shia militias. So the Sunni did what any tribal group will do at a time like that: they cut a deal with the other armed group that was around, which just happened to be the Americans. Under American sponsorship, the Sunnis have built up a militia formation of their own, and during the last few month of 2007 American casualties began to fall dramatically.
However this is unlikely to last because now that both sides have their militias, they can each start to look for advantages against each other. If the Americans side with one militia in one area, then the faction that feels left out will attack American forces. The Americans will find that they are fighting the Shia is one district and the Sunni in another. The interesting thing about all this is that because the Iraqi forces are tribally based, these alliances can shift in the blinking of an eye. So with luck we can sit back and watch as bewildered Americans get shot at tomorrow by their allies of yesterday.
The important thing here is that whoever wins these bloody conflicts, at the end of the day America loses.