Can Civil War in Iraq Be Averted?

“Analysts See the Lebanon-ization of Iraq in Crystal Ball,” reports the Los Angeles Times. And USA Today peeks in the cupboard of possible things the U.S. could do to stave off a real civil war in Iraq—and finds it pretty much bare. The news today that Sunnis have agreed to join the political process again seems like a good development, but that doesn’t mean reconciliation is in hand: according to the UN’s outgoing human rights chief in Iraq, John Pace, even before the Samarra bombing, Shiite and Kurdish-backed death squads were torturing and executing hundreds of Iraqis every month in Baghdad alone.

Sunni leaders appear to be rattled by the violence in recent days enough to want to negotiate with the Iraqi government, but as Israelis and Palestinians have known for years, it only takes a few people who don’t actually want peace for there not to be peace. The more militant Iraqi clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr are gaining in influence by the day, drowning out saner and more moderate religious voices. Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that more and more analysts here in the United States are talking about withdrawal; because Iraq may continue to disintegrate regardless of whether the U.S. stays or goes. And in that case, as Suzanne Nossel says: “The only thing worse than Iraq as a failed state is Iraq as a failed state with 130,000 Americans living there.”