Civil war in Iraq

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Civil war in Iraq
Part of Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency
Image:Sectarian attack.jpg
Baghdad locals gather around the site of an exploded car bomb of the type often used in sectarian attacks
Date Sectarian violence 2004 - November 23rd, 2006

Civil war November 23rd, 2006 - current

Location Iraq
Result Ongoing
Iraqi Sunni Arabs
Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Jaish Ansar al-Sunna
Islamic Army in Iraq
Black Banner Organization
Mohammad's Army
former Ba'ath Loyalists
Jaish al-Rashideen
Abu Theeb group
Shiite Arab militias
Mahdi Army
Badr Brigade
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Ayyub al-Masri
Ishmael Jubouri
Muqtada al-Sadr
Hadi Al-Amiri
Abu Deraa
unknown unknown
Uncertain; high civilian casualties. Uncertain; high civilian casualties.
Iraq War
InvasionPost-invasion (InsurgencyCivil War)

Nasiriyah – Baghdad – Debecka Pass – Peninsula Strike –Red Dawn – 1st Fallujah – 1st Ramadi – Husaybah – Najaf – 2nd Fallujah – Matador – Steel Curtain – Al-Askari Mosque – 2nd Ramadi – Together Forward

Full list of Coalition operations
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Following the U.S. launched 2003 invasion of Iraq, 2004 transfer of limited sovereignty to the Iraq Interim Governing Council, and 2005 ratification of the Constitution of Iraq, division<ref>International Crisis Group Mideast Report #52</ref> and conflict between Iraqi Sunni and Shi'a Islam religious factions, escalated first into sectarian violence and then in approximately late fall 2006 into a civil war. A 2006 study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has estimated that more than 601,000 Iraqis have died in this violence and that fewer than one third of these deaths came at the hands of Coalition forces.<ref>[ 2006 Study of Iraq Mortality]</ref> The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Iraqi government estimate that more than 365,000 Iraqis have been displaced since the 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, bringing the total number of Iraqi refugees to more than 1.6m.<ref>Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees</ref>


[edit] Sectarian composition

The Sunni insurgency has used sectarian violence to capitalize on Sunni fears of the Shi'a majority and the Shi'a armed militias have shown a zeal for vigilante justice. However, there are other sectarian divisions of the population that lay in nearly a dozen distinct groups. These groups are subdivided into countless smaller factions.

The sectarian divisions can be divided into several main ideological or ethnic strands:

Ethnic groups:

  • Arab : ~ 75% : The bulk of the Iraqi population that is divided along Islamic religious lines.
  • Kurdish ~ 20% : De facto independent administration (mostly Sunnis, but with a heavily secular government).
  • Assyrian ~ 3% : play little/no role in the violence.
  • Turkoman ~ 2% : play little/no role in the violence.


  • Muslim ~ 95% : The main ideological driving force in many Iraqi lives.
    • Shi'ite ~ 65% : Mainly Arabs with a very small minority of Kurds
    • Sunni ~ 32% : Split almost even with Kurds and Arabs.
  • Christian and Yezidi ~ 5% : play little/no role in the violence.

The Arab-Sunni faction and the Arab-Shi'ite are the main two participants in the violence, but conflicts within a single group have occurred. Iran, it has been conjectured, would assist the Shiites. A Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq, with Iran helping the Shiite and other Arab nations helping the Sunni, is a possibility.<ref name="buchanan">Buchanan, Patrick, "Is America’s war in Iraq winding up?". August 4, 2005</ref> Sunnis have claimed the Shiites want to establish an Iranian-style theocracy. The Kurds are caught between the two religious groups but as they are an ethnicity opposed to religious movement they are often at odds with the Sunni Arabs that were settled in Kurdish Iraq by Saddam's Arabization policy. <ref name="smh">"US exit may lead to Iraqi civil war". November 19, 2003</ref> Blurring this cohesion, though, are division of social, economic, political and geographic identities.

[edit] Timeline

There have been a number of spectacularly bloody attacks in Iraq. In August of 2003 the Imam Ali Mosque (a Shi'a mosque) was bombed with somewhere between 85 to 125 Shi'ites were killed, including Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. The Ashoura Massacre of March 2, 2004, left more than 180 people dead in one of the bloodiest attacks of the insurgency. A car bomb February 28, 2005, killed 125 in Hillah. Attacks in September 2005 killed hundreds of Iraqis within days of each other.

In late August 2005, violence occurred in Najaf, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, and Sadr City (Baghdad). The fighting was between the supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigade, who are backed by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Both sides blame each other for the violence. Some Shi'a National Assembly members and ministers suspended their membership in the council because of the violence. Since Sadr's expulsion from the city of Najaf, fighting between rival Shi'a groups has nearly ceased.

On September 22, 2005, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said that he had warned the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq was hurtling toward disintegration, and that the election planned for December was unlikely to make any difference. United States officials immediately made statements rejecting this view.

Civilian deaths attributable to insurgent or military action in Iraq, and also to increased criminal violence. For the period between January 1, 2003 and July 20, 2006 as recorded by the Iraq Body Count project. Many of these type of civilian deaths are not reported. Other methods of estimating civilian deaths come up with much higher numbers. See also: Casualties of the conflict in Iraq since 2003.

The Al Askari Mosque bombing occurred on February 22, 2006 at approximately 6:55am local time (0355 UTC) at the Al Askari Mosque — one of the holiest sites in Shi'a Islam — in the Iraqi city of Samarra, some 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the bombing resulted in violence over the following days.

Following the Samarra bombing, reprisal attacks continued until a curfew was put into place, avoiding civil war. The following events took place after the bombing: After sundown, a car-bomb killed 23 at the Shiite Abdel Habi Chalabi mosque. A suicide bombing killed an another 23 at an east Baghdad gas station. Police subsequently found nine more bullet-riddled bodies, which included a Sunni tribal sheik. An attack was carried out on the Shiite Imam Kadhim shrine, killing one and wounding ten. Shiite cleric Hani Hadi was found shot in the head near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood. A car-bomb hit a market across from the Shiite Timimi mosque, killing six. The Iraqi government has stated that 379 people were killed in the subsequent attacks, although the Washington Post reported that over 1,300 people were killed.

On May 10, 2006 Iraqi President Jalal Talabani made a public announcement urging all political parties to "quell this bleeding" after figures showed sectarian violence killed 1,091 in Baghdad the prior month.<ref></ref>

In July 2006, Baghdad's central morgue received 1,855 bodies, the most since the bombing of a Shia shrine in February prompted a wave of sectarian killings. The Iraqi government stated that 3,438 Iraqis died around the country that month.<ref></ref>

Shia gunmen massacred 40 Sunni Muslims on July 9 2006 in Baghdad. On August 20 2006, Sunni snipers shot and killed at least 22 Shiites during a pilgrimage in Baghdad.

On August 22, 2006, Lieutenant General Robert Fry, Britain's top commander in Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon in a video-teleconference from Baghdad "What I think we have is something which is, at the very best, a civil war in miniature...But I don't think it actually even meets that definition...I think we have something which is localized, relatively difficult to deal with...But we're now beginning to take measures which are genuinely eating into the sectarian violence which has been operating up until now." Fry stated that the sectarian violence was confined to an area around Baghdad.<ref name="herald">"British general in Iraq comments on ’civil war in miniature’" Associated Press, August 22, 2006</ref><ref name="afp">"Top British commander calls Iraq "a civil war in miniature"" AFP, August 22, 2006</ref>

On August 23, 2006, Jill Carroll, a journalist with the Christian Science Monitor, published part 8 of her story detailing her captivity in Iraq. In it, she described how two days after the Al Askari Mosque bombing, one of her captors told her the following: "'Aisha,' he said, calling me by the Sunni nickname they'd given me, 'now our No. 1 enemy are the Shias. Americans are No. 2.'" She continued by stating: "But after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Shrine, and rampant Sunni-Shiite killing, nearly every captor I came into contact with would tell me about their hate for Shiites first."<ref></ref>

On October 20, 2006, the Mahdi Army took over the entire city of Amara in southeastern Iraq, raising further speculation that the country had degenerated into civil war. <ref></ref>British forces, who occupied the city since 2004 before turning it over to Iraqi control in August 2006, did not intervene to stop the bloodshed, apparently wanting to give Iraqi officials time to resolve the dispute on their own. British military officials said that a quick-reaction force was standing by outside Amara in case the Iraqis’ efforts failed. October 20 2006 clashes, which pitted Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army-fighters against members of a rival Shiite faction, the Badr Organization, also showed the deep fissures in the country’s Shiite leadership, and cast doubt on the ability of the ruling Shiite coalition to hold itself together. In comparison with the west and north of the country, where a fierce Sunni Arab-led insurgency has tormented American and Iraqi troops and where Sunni and Shiite death squads have engaged in vicious cycle of retributive violence, the predominantly Shiite south has been fairly peaceful. But a disintegration of the unstable pact between Mahdi Army and Badr fighters could draw American attention away from other trouble areas and compel the British military to return to areas they have turned over to the Iraqis.<ref></ref>

On November 23, 2006, a savage string of bombing attacks erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City. Sunni-Arab militants used three suicide car bombs and two mortar rounds on the capital's Shiite Sadr City slum to kill at least 215 people and wound 257. The Shiites responded almost immediately, firing 10 mortar rounds at the Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque as Azamiya, the holiest Sunni shrine in Baghdad. The next day, the Mahdi Army killed 25 Sunnis, including six Sunnis that were pulled from a Sunni mosque during Friday prayer, doused with kerosene and burned alive as Iraqi soldiers (consisting mainly of Shiites) stood by. <ref></ref>

[edit] Potential effects of Iraqi civil war

An article in The Washington Post, published on August 20, 2006<ref name="byman">Daniel L. Byman, and Kenneth M. Pollack. "A Domino Theory for the New Mideast: What Happens When Iraw Runneth Over"", The Washington Post, August 20, 2006.</ref>, reported that a full-blown Iraq civil war might result in the death of hundreds of thousands of people and turn millions of people into refugees. The ethnic unrest could also spill over to the rest of the region, with "copycat secession attempts" in neighbouring countries, such as Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as these countries have similar ethnic diversity. Citing the history of Taliban and Rwandan Patriotic Front as examples, the report warned that refugee camps often become a sanctuary and recruiting ground for militias, thus spreading the conflict to a wider area. Civil war could lead to increased radicalism and terrorism: Hezbollah, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and the Irish Republican Army were all formed as a result of civil wars. Based on lessons learnt from the Irish, Lebanese, and Bosnian civil wars, the report predicted that if an all-out civil war were to break out in Iraq, the US-led coalition would require 450,000 troops to quash it.

An article in The International Herald Tribune, published on November 26, 2006<ref name="wong">Edward Wong. "Scholars agree Iraq meets definition of 'civil war'", The International Herald Tribune, November 26, 2006.</ref>, paraphrased a report from a group of American professors at Stanford University that the insurgency in Iraq amounted to the classic definition of a civil war.

[edit] Conflict and tactics

[edit] Non-military targets

Some analysts[Please name specific person or group] suspect that the aim of these attacks is to show chaos and sectarian discord. There have been attacks on non-military and civilian targets, beginning in earnest in August 2003 and steadily increasing since then. Armed and unarmed Iraqi police and Iraqi security forces are targeted. The assassination of Iraqis cooperating with the Iraqi Government have also occurred.

[edit] Ambushes

Ambushes against the poorly protected Iraqi police and security forces collaborating with the invaders, however, have proven very lethal. There have been isolated cases of larger ambushes, such as an attack on a coalition convoy in Samarra on November 30, 2003 that involved 100 fighters and a massive ambush of a coalition convoy in Sadr City on April 4, 2004 by Mahdi Army militiamen numbering over 1,000 men.

[edit] Sabotage

Saboteurs have also repeatedly assaulted the Iraqi oil industry. Using either rocket-propelled grenades or explosives, forces have destroy portions of oil pipeline in northern Iraq, and had expanded to southern Iraq by April, 2004. This sabotage hampers the activities of the Iraqi government and the foreign occupation forces by reducing oil revenues. There have also been attacks on water pipelines and the electrical grid by the Iraqi insurgents.

[edit] Suicide bombers

Since August, 2003, suicide car bombs have been increasingly used as weapons by sectarian militant forces. The car bombs, known in the military as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, have emerged as one of their most effective weapons, along with the roadside improvised explosive devices. They are driven by extremist bombers and directed against targets such as Iraqi police stations and recruiting centers for the security services.

[edit] Assassinations and kidnappings

Assassination of local and government officials, translators for coalition forces, employees at coalition bases, informants, and other (so-called) collaborators has been a regular occurrence. Assassinations have taken place in a variety of ways, from close-range small arms fire and drive-by shootings to suicide car-bombers ramming convoys. Kidnapping, and in some cases, beheadings in execution-style killings, have emerged as another tactic. In many cases, tapes of the beheadings are distributed for propaganda purposes. However, 80% of hostages taken by extremists have been peacefully released, though many only after their respective employing companies or governments paid hefty ransom demands under the threat of beheading the kidnap victim.

[edit] Sectarian desertions

Some Iraqi service members have deserted the military or the police and others have refused to serve in hostile areas.<ref name="desertion">Former CIA Officer Says Iraq Can Be Stabilized By Trained Security Forces PBS</ref> For example, some members of one sect have refused to serve in neighborhoods dominated by other sects.<ref name="desertion" />

[edit] Criticisms of Civil War label

The UN is taking the position that Iraq is "almost" in a "civil war-like situation". However, the UN recognizes that recent Iraqi violence is the result of terrorist attacks.[1]

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External articles

Civil war in Iraq

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