March 3, 2004
The Independent

All This Talk of Civil War, and Now This Carnage. Coincidence?

by Robert Fisk

Odd, isn't it? There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.

Al-Qa'ida has never uttered a threat against Shias - even though al-Qa'ida is a Sunni-only organisation. Yet for weeks, the American occupation authorities have been warning us about civil war, have even produced a letter said to have been written by an al-Qa'ida operative, advocating a Sunni-Shia conflict. Normally sane journalists have enthusiastically taken up this theme. Civil war.

Somehow I don't believe it. No, I don't believe the Americans were behind yesterday's carnage despite the screams of accusation by the Iraqi survivors yesterday. But I do worry about the Iraqi exile groups who think that their own actions might produce what the Americans want: a fear of civil war so intense that Iraqis will go along with any plan the United States produces for Mesopotamia.

I think of the French OAS in Algeria in 1962, setting off bombs among France's Muslim Algerian community. I recall the desperate efforts of the French authorities to set Algerian Muslim against Algerian Muslim which led to half a million dead souls.

And I'm afraid I also think of Ireland and the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, . . .

It's not that I believe al-Qa'ida incapable of such a bloodbath. But I ask myself why the Americans are rubbing this Sunni-Shia thing so hard. Let's turn the glass round the other way. If a violent Sunni movement wished to evict the Americans from Iraq - and there is indeed a resistance movement fighting very cruelly to do just that - why would it want to turn the Shia population of Iraq, 60 per cent of Iraqis, against them? The last thing such a resistance would want is to have the majority of Iraqis against it. . . .

But an occupation authority which should regard civil war as the last prospect it ever wants to contemplate, keeps shouting "civil war" in our ears and I worry about that. Especially when the bombs make it real.


Soner Cagaptay, "The Problem Within Islam," Weekly Standard March 1, 2004

John F. Burns, "At Least 143 Die in Attacks at Two Sacred Sites in Iraq," New York Times, March 3, 2004

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