The three factions of Iraq are now four. How man will there be tomorrow?
When the US went into Iraq it knew there were two religious divisions of Muslims, the dominant Shiites and the less populous but ruling Sunni. In the north, with its people spilling over into Turkey and Iran are a separate non-Arab people, the Kurds, who once had a separate religion akin to Zoroastrianism, but who are now mainly Sunni.
The fourth faction in Iraq today is, of course, the terrorists infiltrating from outside who are referred to by various names but default to al qaeda whenever President Bush is speaking.
Perhaps there is already a fifth faction in place in the war-torn country that may well become a major player in the months ahead: criminal gangs.
As this article in USA Today Consequences and truth: Lessons from Basra points out the relative calm in the British sector in the south of Iraq, centred on the major city of Basra, has been turning into chaos of a different kind. As the British withdrew, vesting control of the region with local leaders a turf war broke out between rival Shiite militias which are positioning themselves for the eventual oil wealth.
This scenario, bred in the relatively peaceful south, is thought to be the inevitable consequence of the US drawing down or leaving the far more volatile central region, particularly given that the central government seems to mirror all the divisions in the region.
And the relatively peaceful north may metastasize into something very ugly as well, as the Kurds seek to include the oil fields just beyond its ‘border’ near Kirkuk which the Kurds feel rightly belongs to them, just as they feel that the nation of Kurdistan, the Iraqi north with parts of Turkey and Iran, is their natural home.
How will this play out? The Turks, with its long-standing antipathy with the Kurds, has already amassed troops along its border with the Kurds. What are they fearing? Perhaps, a new, strain of division: prosperity.
In the years of the Iraq war the Kurds have been pretty much left alone and they have spent these years working hard towards creating a modern, efficient ‘country.’ As a recent 60 Minutes piece explained, the Kurds, increasingly have nothing in common with their Arab countrymen who are locked into war and terrorism. They want to get on with building a modern state with access to the oil in the north.
So add Kurdish modernism to the factions developing in the country of Iraq and when its all added up it presents a very confusing picture, indeed.
But a picture that was reasonably obvious from the beginning which is why it was so stunningly inept that the US would stumble so blindly into this hornets nest. They have left themselves no decent options. None.