Colin Powell Says Iraq in a "Civil War"
Wednesday 29 November 2006
[ Former secretary of state Colin Powell says "civil war" describes Iraq now.
[ Bush, top advisers have avoided the term.
[ Powell was top diplomat when US invaded Iraq in 2003 and made case for war.
[ UN secretary general said Monday Iraq was "almost" in civil war.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that Iraq's violence meets the standard of civil war and that if he were heading the State Department now, he might recommend that the administration use that term.
Many news organizations and analysts are calling the Sunni-Shiite sectarian warfare that exploded this year, killing thousands and causing widespread displacement, a civil war.
Powell's comments - made in the United Arab Emirates at the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum - are significant because he backed the war and was the top US diplomat when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
Bush has avoided using the term "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq.
Tuesday, he called the latest violence in Iraq "part of a pattern" of attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq to divide Shiites and Sunnis and vowed, again, he won't support the removal of US troops "before the mission is complete."
"There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," he said.
White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley also dismissed the notion that civil war has begun in Iraq.
"The Iraqis don't talk of it as a civil war. The unity government doesn't talk of it as a civil war," Hadley said Monday. "You have not yet had a situation also where you have two clearly defined and opposing groups vying not only for power but for territory."
But he added: "We're clearly in a new phase characterized by an increase in sectarian violence that requires us to adapt to that new phase," according to The Associated Press.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday said that he believes Iraq is near civil war. "Unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact we are almost there," he said.
A spokesman for the powerful political bloc of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday the group has suspended its participation in Iraq's government. The group had threatened to take such action if Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with President Bush in Jordan this week. Al-Maliki was in Jordan Wednesday with talks scheduled for Thursday.
A classified memo prepared by President's Bush's national security adviser after a recent trip to Iraq questions whether al-Maliki can rise above Iraq's widening and bloody Sunni-Shiite divide.
Powell proposed a two-part solution to the problems in Iraq. First, he said, coalition troops must remain, but their numbers must be reduced. Second, a political solution must emerge among Iraqis themselves and not be imposed on them.
In 2003, Powell set out a lengthy argument at the United Nations that buttressed the eventual invasion, including supposed evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Asked Wednesday whether he regretted those statements, he said he does. He noted he was working with the information that was available to him at the time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.