I ran across this from Juan Cole
, a very, very disturbing development that you probably won't read in a newspaper:
In response to these further attacks on Islamic and Shiite shrines, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for the establishment of tribal levies to protect tsuch holy sites. He received a delegation of tribesmen from Kufa. Most of the rural clans of the Middle Euphrates are devoted to Sistani and woul[d] be willing to provide such a militia. This proliferation of militias is however extremely worrisome.
Sistani has worked diligently to use his moral authority to try and control events, particularly to eliminate violence, within the Shiite groups and Iraq at large. The fact that he now sees a need for a militia means he accepts the reality on the ground, Iraq is in a civil war. And as Cole points out, Sistani may become a victim of the enthusiasm of his own militia as events continue to unfold.
The numerous militias completely complicate the entire situation in Iraq. The presumption that the fighting will simply be between the Shiites and Sunni's is another misguided and simplistic myth that most Americans hold. There are just as likely to be battles between various militias on a political basis, tribal basis or regional basis, as there is based on religious preferences. Iraq has an enormous power vacuum that a radioactive America can't fill, and no Iraqi faction has enough power to fill. Thus, a stalemate of civil war is likely until the dynamic is shifted, i.e. Iran enters southern Iraq, Turkey enters northern Iraq, or a regional war.
I eliminate a negotiated settlement among the parties because it's a very difficult proposition, simply from the standpoint of the numbers of different groups, all having high levels of influence in their constituency, all having military forces, all having easy access to weapons, and any one of which is capable of sabotaging any deal.
On another note. It's also interesting to note that as Iraq fails, conservatives are coming out of the woodword tacitly acknowledging the failure in Iraq. But, like with Vietnam, they blame the lack of committment, troops and will to win. And like Vietnam, they simply refuse to accept that the fundamental mission was flawed from the beginning being militarily and politically untenable. This denial will sow the seeds for another war in another generation because these numbskulls never learn