Who dare call it victory? 54

The last US combat brigade has left Iraq. From now on American military personnel will be there only to “advise and assist” the Iraqi government – when there is an Iraqi government to advise and assist. Five months ago parliamentary elections were held, but which party or coalition of parties should govern, and which party leader should be prime minister, are still in dispute. Prospects for agreement are not growing brighter.

Still, the US mission of pacifying and democratizing the country is regarded as almost accomplished.

Not that the country is entirely pacified any more than it is truly democratized. Though everyone agrees that “the surge” succeeded, the terrorists do not consider themselves defeated. Only two days ago a suicide bomber killed 61 Iraqi Army recruits with nail-packed explosives.

So what will happen there? Will Iraq yet turn into a peaceful united democracy?

Or will it be torn and shattered by civil war as some Israeli observers foresee?

At least two civil conflicts are at boiling point – Sunni-Shiite strife and hostilities between the two Muslim factions and the Kurds of the North – and Iran’s followers stand ready to seize Iraq’s oil-rich South potentially sparking yet another world conflagration.

The political vacuum in Baghdad created by Nouri al-Maliki’s refusal to step down or join a unity government is unsustainable and the cause of a rising spiral of violence. Neither of the two leading Iraqi parties which emerged from the general election earlier this year – Maliki’s State of Law Party and ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya Party – is seen capable of commanding a parliamentary majority any time this year.

Dropping out of negotiations for joining Allawi in a coalition government, the transitional prime minister has turned his attention to preparations for a Shiite war against the Sunnis to be launched as soon as the Americans are gone. He has lined up senior Shiite commanders in the Iraqi Army who are willing to lead an all-out offensive against the Sunnis in Baghdad and central and western Iraq.

US intelligence is perfectly aware of the imminent threat. It is according to them that –

[The Shiites] are preparing to capture large parts of Baghdad as well as Habaniya, Ramadi, Tikrit, Falluja and sections of Anbar Province, in order to achieve two objectives.

One is to defeat Sunni forces, forcing them to accept their loss of political influence and bow to his conditions, or else face more casualties, the loss of more territory in the cities and more debacles.

The second is to crush the power bases the Saudis are building in Iraq at great expense.

While the Saudis and the Syrians are spending money to buy off Maliki’s supporters, he plans to physically destroy the Sunni power centers in which they are investing.

The war could be protracted, and disastrous not only for Iraq:

His plans could ignite a Shiite-Sunni war lasting from one to two years up to late 2012 or early 2013. At least one to one-and-a-half million Iraqi Sunnis will be put to flight and flood neighboring Jordan which has neither the resources not the utilities to support that many refugees.

And while that civil war is raging, another could break out:

A second Iraqi community, the Kurds of the north, is in the midst of war preparations out of a bitter sense of betrayal by Washington.

They are furious over America quitting the country without solving the critical issue of Kirkuk and its oilfields. Calculating that the Shiites and Sunnis will be caught up in their own war and have no soldiers to spare for stopping them, the Kurds have lined up this strategic northern city for capture as soon as September.

They also plan to exploit the anticipated armed Sunni-Shiite feud to drive south and grab parts of central Iraq up to a line some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Holding such towns as Saghir, Chay Khanah, Qarah Tappah, Muhsin Aziz and As-Sadiyah would be the key to Kurdish control of the eastern provinces bordering on Iran. …

And all the while Iran will be watching, ready to take advantage of the turmoil for its own ends:

Tehran is also eyeing rich spoils in Iraq’s post-American era.

The networks in Iraq run by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the MOIS, and the Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades have joined forces with their Iraqi allies to take over the southern oilfields centering on the city of Basra, which account for about 60 percent of the country’s oil output.

This would be Iran’s payback for the energy sanctions President Barack Obama imposed in July.

Iran also covets the two holiest cities of the world Shiite movement, Karbala and Najaf. …

Have seven and a half years of  war in Iraq achieved nothing worth the blood and sacrifice? We wouldn’t say so. We think President Bush was right to invade Iraq. It was good that the tyrant Saddam Hussein was toppled, captured, and hanged. But perhaps that was as much as could be done, and the Iraqis should have been left then to flounder into their next calamity on their own.