31 March 2006

The future of Iraq

Juan Cole spins some scenarios about Iraq.
Iraq ends up being somewhat like Lebanon was. The Lebanese had a civil war between 1975 and 1989, and in 1989 the Saudis and others intervened and brought the big Lebanese politicians to a place called Taef in Saudi Arabia, and they hammered out a new accord, a new power-sharing arrangement among the various communities of Lebanon. From that point forward, they decided to disarm their communal militias and re-establish the Lebanese central government and its army.

It hasn't been a smooth road. Between 1975 and 1989 we think on the order of 90,000 people were killed in that civil war. It was very bad. They used big artillery pieces and tanks against one another; there was ethnic cleansing, communal violence. I don't think the violence in Iraq is going to end anytime soon. I expect it to go on for a good decade, and the question is at the end of that decade are Iraqis so tired of all this that they put pressure on their political leaders to make a settlement and come back together?

If they do that, then it won't have been a pleasant experience and a lot of people are going to die, but it won't be millions, and it won't throw the entire region and maybe the world into catastrophe ... years of instability followed by a political settlement.

Mind you, that's the best-case scenario.