In a satellite-feed interview from Iraq, yesterday, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli (commanding general, Multinational Corps Iraq) told Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman:
There has been a lot of talk lately about the post-Samarra violence, and whether it means Iraq is descending into a civil war. Quite frankly, the talk of civil war is nothing new. I’ve heard people debate the topic for three years now.
I don’t want to downplay the tragedy of the violence that has occurred; however, it may be unfair to characterize every post-22nd February event as sectarian in nature.
The possibility of civil war may be higher today than it has been in the last three years, yet I believe we are still far away from such an event. Where there are groups of individuals polarized at each end of the spectrum, there are a vast majority of Iraqis in the middle who don’t see the divisions that are being highlighted. Many Iraqis are part of mixed marriages and lived in mixed neighborhoods and consider themselves Iraqis first.
I can tell you that in the first few days following the bombing, we did indeed see an increase in sectarian violence. That has since tapered off, and what we are seeing now are the same types of attacks we were seeing before the mosque bombing, and actually at a slightly lower number, except now all events seem to be characterized as sectarian in nature. In some instances, it’s perceived that way.
Now, some of those events are sectarian, but far fewer than are being reported. Most of the events are a combination of the work of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent attacks designed to prevent progress in building the government and pure, unadulterated crime.