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The Islamic Insurgency

The fighting spirit of the Afghan is well known. Its not like Vietnam where the RVN troops might bug out in the middle of a tough spot. The Afghans and Iraqis respect our troops and even want to emulate them. But in most low intensity ops we have to deal with the issue of safe havens. Are you prepared to expand the area of operations to other countries ? What are the ramifications of doing so vs the status quo ?

In Vietnam we entered both Laos and Cambodia to take away the NVA's safe havens. The long term results were catastrophic to the countries that were invaded. The short term gain for us was negligible. Our best bet is to cajole the Pakistani government into dealing with the problem themselves. One possibility would be to make direct cash payments to the Pakistani military to boost soldiers pay who are involved in this fight. Create a bonus system to enhance performance. Meet certain standards and get an extra $100m in military aid for example.
George Wallace said:
I agree with your proposal, but question how these people would be paid.  They are paid a fraction of what we would call minimum wage, and I am sure that their Government would not compensate them more, for such training here.  They would of course be billeted in barracks and fed in Mess Halls, but would not be able to afford such things as visits to Canex, Drug Stores, Dept Stores, etc. even for the most basic of items.  Any Tourist activities would definitely be out of the question.  The cost of transporting them would have to be picked up by their Government also.  I like the idea, but can forsee the fiscal restraints that would deem it infeasible without large Grants from our Government.  (Something for the NDP to chew on.  ;D )

One possibility is something on the MTAP model:

Directorate Military Training Assistance Programme (DMTAP)
Canada is one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. We can afford to drop One Billion dollars on a simple paperwork and filing exercise, and blow untold billions out of so many orifaces it looks like a snowstorm. (Why do you think there is STILL inflation in Canada, or any other nation, for that matter?).

Considering the gravity of the situation, and the expected positive outcomes which could be expected from some developed version of a plan like this, I would hope some serious thought and resources go to thinking outside the box and developing solutions which have few obvious counters for the Jihadis.
It seems to me that the very terrain that makes it impossible for the Pakistanis to control the Hill Tribes also makes it impossible for the Pakistanis to monitor or oppose incursions.  Especially if they are covered by the modest fig-leaf of "hot trod".

You don't want to station people in that country. You just want to get in and get out when there is actionable intelligence.

In Afghanistan, on the other hand, you want to leave garrisons in place, along with your QRFs, to protect your "ink-spots".

People are learning - and it is not just the terrs and the western armies.  Our other enemies are getting an eyeful - and I believe we are making new friends as well. 

It wasn't so long ago that Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Romanians were all counted on the other side.
Ran across this excellant article today on American Thinker. The culminating point the article asserts is what we have arrived at in the war on terror.


“...where an attack, no matter how successful, inevitably begins to stall out, to lose power and coherence. After that, the assault can no longer be sustained, and the wise commander calls a halt to rest and reorganize his forces….  Eventually, the overseas campaign against the Jihadis will reach its culminating point…”

to keep in mind that the culminating point is a product of success.

It’s a circumstance that occurs only at the end of a victorious campaign against an enemy that, for whatever reason, can’t be completely negated or destroyed. The Jihadis may be secure, but only in wastelands and backwaters like Somalia and Waziristan. Their assets have been crushed and scattered. The pre-war status quo, in which they operated freely on the international stage with the open collaboration of outlaw states, will not return. Those with remaining doubts should ask themselves: given the chance, would they care to switch positions with the Jihadis right about now?


I did search for this clip onsite and nothing came up, so Mods, forgive if I have erred.  Anyhow, this 12 minute documentary is titled,

Obsession, Radical Islam's War Against The West.  I felt it was well worth the time to watch.

This "War on Terror" in the news has all our focus concentrated on Iraq and Afghanistan, with Pakistan and Iran on the peripheries.  We have almost forgotten about the Middle East conflicts.  We have totally forgotten about terrorist activities in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chechnya, the various 'Stans, etc.  China's participation in this war has been totally off the radar.

Here, in accordance shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act - http://www.cb-cda.gc.ca/info/act-e.html#rid-33409

Link to article
Family claims Huseyin Celil tortured in China
08/02/2007 11:32:27 PM 

The family of a Chinese-Canadian imprisoned in China on terror-related charges spoke with CTV News inside the country, despite the fear that police would arrest them for talking to the foreign press.

Huseyin Celil's sister, mother and older brother met CTV's Steve Chao to speak out about his alleged mistreatment.

"He is being tortured by Chinese police," said Celil's mother. "They forced him to sign a confession, or he would be put in a hole and buried alive."

Celil himself has told a courtroom he was tortured by secret police. However, no Canadian envoys were in the courtroom Friday when Celil, a former Muslim leader from Hamilton, made the rare appearance. His sister and son attended.

In response to the report, the federal government said it dispatched diplomats to Urumqi, China, with orders they remain there indefinitely, The Globe and Mail reports.

Celil has been in Chinese custody on terror-related charges since March, when he was detained in Uzbekistan while visiting his wife's family, then sent to China under an extradition agreement between the two nations.

"He's just a loving family man who cares for his children and wants peace," said his mother.

"All I want is for a chance to see him one last time."

China has refused to recognize Celil's Canadian citizenship and has denied him access to Canadian consular officials. His Canadian lawyer has been unable to speak with him, and his wife Kamila Telendibaeva hasn't seen him in almost a year.

His family says the 38-year-old is being persecuted because he is an Uighur Muslim and a political dissident who fled his homeland in the 1990s.

The Uighur people have demanded autonomy, angering Chinese officials who have long accused members of the Muslim minority group of terrorism.

Referring to Celil as "Mr. Yu," China's assistant foreign affairs minister He Yafei said he "is suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. He is a key member of a terrorist organization called Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement."

Celil's imprisonment has caused friction between Canada and China -- a nation whose human rights record has been publicly questioned by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, among others.

"We believe in the rule of law," He Yafei told CTV's Mike Duffy Live

"Any criminal should be brought to justice. We should care of the human rights of the victims of terrorist attacks."

Harper pointedly spoke about Celil with Chinese President Hu Jintao while in Vietnam, where the two leaders were among 21 gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit last November.

Harper also referred to Celil while en route to that conference.

"When a Canadian citizen is taken from a third country and imprisoned in China, this is a serious concern to this country," he said.

More recently, unnamed Canadian officials this week took to the media to slam Canadian diplomats for their failure to attend the hearing, and there were reports that Harper himself was upset at the handling of the case, The Globe reports.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay's spokesman, Dan Dugas, told The Globe that MacKay had personally called the Canadian embassy in Beijing.

"The Chinese government is not co-operating with the Canadian mission in China and we aren't going to stop asking them for what's happening with Mr. Celil," said Dugas. He would not comment directly on claims Harper was angered that no official was in the court.

"I can tell you he is not happy either," Dugas said, referring to MacKay. "He's asking for answers. He wants to know what is being done and what the next steps are going to be."

With a report by CTV's Steve Chao in Urumqi, China

© 2007 Bell Canada, Microsoft Corporation and/or their contributors. All rights reserved.
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing (§29) of the Copyright Act, is a preview article from the next (March/April 2007) of Foreign Affairs; I’m afraid some members will not find this pleasant reading:

Iraq's Civil War

By James D. Fearon
From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007

Summary: The White House still avoids the label, but by any reasonable historical standard, the Iraqi civil war has begun. The record of past such wars suggests that Washington cannot stop this one -- and that Iraqis will be able to reach a power-sharing deal only after much more fighting, if then. The United States can help bring about a settlement eventually by balancing Iraqi factions from afar, but there is little it can do to avert bloodshed now.

James D. Fearon is Geballe Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.


As sectarian violence spiked in Baghdad around last Thanksgiving, Bush administration spokespeople found themselves engaged in a strange semantic fight with American journalists over whether the conflict in Iraq is appropriately described as a civil war. It is not hard to understand why the administration strongly resists the label. For one thing, the U.S. media would interpret a change in the White House's position on this question as a major concession, an open acknowledgment of dashed hopes and failed policy. For another, the administration worries that if the U.S. public comes to see the violence in Iraq as a civil war, it will be even less willing to tolerate continued U.S. military engagement. "If it's a civil war, what are we doing there, mixed up in someone else's fight?" Americans may ask.

But if semantics could matter a lot, it is less obvious whether they should influence U.S. policy. Is it just a matter of domestic political games and public perceptions, or does the existence of civil war in Iraq have implications for what can be achieved there and what strategy Washington should pursue?

In fact, there is a civil war in progress in Iraq, one comparable in important respects to other civil wars that have occurred in postcolonial states with weak political institutions. Those cases suggest that the Bush administration's political objective in Iraq -- creating a stable, peaceful, somewhat democratic regime that can survive the departure of U.S. troops -- is unrealistic. Given this unrealistic political objective, military strategy of any sort is doomed to fail almost regardless of whether the administration goes with the "surge" option, as President George W. Bush has proposed, or shifts toward a pure training mission, as advised by the Iraq Study Group.

Even if an increase in the number of U.S. combat troops reduces violence in Baghdad and so buys time for negotiations on power sharing in the current Iraqi government, there is no good reason to expect that subsequent reductions would not revive the violent power struggle. Civil wars are rarely ended by stable power-sharing agreements. When they are, it typically takes combatants who are not highly factionalized and years of fighting to clarify the balance of power. Neither condition is satisfied by Iraq at present. Factionalism among the Sunnis and the Shiites approaches levels seen in Somalia, and multiple armed groups on both sides appear to believe that they could wrest control of the government if U.S. forces left. Such beliefs will not change quickly while large numbers of U.S. troops remain.

As the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad proceeds, the weak Shiite-dominated government is inevitably becoming an open partisan in a nasty civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs. As a result, President Bush's commitment to making a "success" of the current government will increasingly amount to siding with the Shiites, a position that is morally dubious and probably not in the interest of either the United States or long-term regional peace and stability. A decisive military victory by a Shiite-dominated government is not possible anytime soon given the favorable conditions for insurgency fought from the Sunni-dominated provinces. Furthermore, this course encourages Sunni nationalists to turn to al Qaeda in Iraq for support against Shiite militias and the Iraqi army. It also essentially aligns Washington with Tehran against the Sunni-dominated states to the west.

As long as the Bush administration remains absolutely committed to propping up the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or a similarly configured successor, the U.S. government will have limited leverage with almost all of the relevant parties. By contrast, moving away from absolute commitment -- for example, by beginning to shift U.S. combat troops out of the central theaters -- would increase U.S. diplomatic and military leverage on almost all fronts. Doing so would not allow the current or the next U.S. administration to bring a quick end to the civil war, which most likely will last for some time. But it would allow the United States to play a balancing role between the combatants that would be more conducive to reaching, in the long run, a stable resolution in which Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish interests are well represented in a decent Iraqi government. If the Iraqis ever manage to settle on the power-sharing agreement that is the objective of current U.S. policy, it will come only after bitter fighting in the civil war that is already under way.


A civil war is a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies. Everyday usage of the term "civil war" does not entail a clear threshold for how much violence is necessary to qualify a conflict as a civil war, as opposed to terrorism or low-level political strife. Political scientists sometimes use a threshold of at least 1,000 killed over the course of a conflict. Based on this arguably rather low figure, there have been around 125 civil wars since the end of World War II, and there are roughly 20 ongoing today. If that threshold is increased to an average of 1,000 people killed per year, there have still been over 90 civil wars since 1945. (It is often assumed that the prevalence of civil wars is a post-Cold War phenomenon, but in fact the number of ongoing civil wars increased steadily from 1945 to the early 1990s, before receding somewhat to late-1970s levels.) The rate of killing in Iraq -- easily more than 60,000 in the last three years -- puts the conflict in the company of many recent ones that are routinely described as civil wars (for example, those in Algeria, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, and Sri Lanka). Indeed, even the conservative estimate of 60,000 deaths would make Iraq the ninth-deadliest civil war since 1945 in terms of annual casualties.

A major reason for the prevalence of civil wars is that they have been hard to end. Their average duration since 1945 has been about ten years, with half lasting more than seven years. Their long duration seems to result from the way in which most of these conflicts have been fought: namely, by rebel groups using guerrilla tactics, usually operating in rural regions of postcolonial countries with weak administrative, police, and military capabilities. Civil wars like that of the United States, featuring conventional armies facing off along well-defined fronts, have been highly unusual. Far more typical have been conflicts such as those in Algeria, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and southern and western Sudan. As these cases illustrate, rural guerrilla warfare can be an extremely robust tactic, allowing relatively small numbers of rebels to gain partial control of large amounts of territory for years despite expensive and brutal military campaigns against them.

The civil war in Iraq began in 2004 as a primarily urban guerrilla struggle by Sunni insurgent groups hoping to drive out the United States and to regain the power held by Sunnis under Saddam Hussein. It escalated in 2006 with the proliferation and intensification of violence by Shiite militias, who ostensibly seek to defend Shiites from the Sunni insurgents and who have pursued this end with "ethnic cleansing" and a great deal of gang violence and thuggery.

This sort of urban guerrilla warfare and militia-based conflict differs from the typical post-1945 civil war, but there are analogues. One little-discussed but useful comparison is the violent conflict that wracked Turkish cities between 1977 and 1980. According to standard estimates, fighting among local militias and paramilitaries aligning themselves with "the left" or "the right" killed more than 20 people per day in thousands of attacks and counterattacks, assassinations, and death-squad campaigns. Beginning with a massacre by rightists in the city of Kahramanmaras in December 1978, the left-right conflicts spiraled into ethnic violence, pitting Sunnis against Alawites against Kurds against Shiites in various cities.

As in Iraq today, the organization of the Turkish combatants was highly local and factionalized, especially on the left; the fighting often looked like urban gang violence. But, also as in Iraq, the gangs and militias had shady ties to the political parties controlling the democratically elected national parliament as well. (Indeed, one might describe the civil conflicts in Turkey then and in Iraq now as "militiaized party politics.") Intense political rivalries between the leading Turkish politicians, along with their politically useful ties to the paramilitaries, prevented the democratic regime from moving decisively to end the violence. Much as in Iraq today, the elected politicians fiddled while the cities burned. Fearing that the lower ranks of the military were becoming infected with the violent factionalism of the society at large, military leaders undertook a coup in September 1980, after which they unleashed a major wave of repression against militias and gang members of both the left and the right. At the price of military rule (for what turned out to be three years), the urban terror was ended.

Especially if the United States withdraws from Iraq, the odds are good that a military coup in which some subset of the Iraqi army leadership declares that the elected government is not working and that a strong hand is necessary to impose order will result. It is unlikely, however, that a military regime in Iraq would be able to follow the example of the one in Turkey in the early 1980s. The Turkish military was a strong institution with enough autonomy and enough loyalty to the Kemalist national ideal that it could act independently of the divisions tearing the country apart. Although the army favored the right more than the left, Turkish citizens saw it as largely standing apart from the factional fighting -- and thus as a credible intervenor. By contrast, the Iraqi army and, even more, the Iraqi police force appear to have little autonomy from society and politics. The police look like militia members in different uniforms, sometimes with some U.S. training. The army has somewhat more institutional coherence and autonomy, but it is Shiite-dominated and has few functional mixed units. Some evidence suggests that high-level figures in the army are facilitating, if not actively pursuing, ethnic cleansing. Accordingly, a power grab by a subset of the army leadership would be widely interpreted as a power grab by a particular Shiite faction -- and could lead the army to break up along sectarian and, possibly, factional lines.

What happened in Lebanon in 1975-76 may offer better insights into what is likely to happen in Iraq. As violence between Christian militias and Palestine Liberation Organization factions started to escalate in 1975, the Lebanese army leadership initially stayed out of the conflict, realizing that the army would splinter if it tried to intervene. But as the violence escalated, the army eventually did intervene -- and broke apart. Lebanon then entered a long period of conflict during which an array of Christian, Sunni, Shiite, and PLO militias fought one another off and on (as much within sectarian groups as between them). Syrian and Israeli military involvement sometimes reduced and sometimes escalated the violence. Alliances shifted, often in surprising ways. The Syrians, for example, initially sided with the Christians against the PLO.

A similar scenario is already playing out in Iraq. Whether U.S. forces stay or go, Iraq south of the Kurdish areas will probably look more and more like Lebanon during its long civil war. Effective political authority will devolve to regions, cities, and even neighborhoods. After a period of ethnic cleansing and fighting to draw lines, an equilibrium with lower-level, more intermittent sectarian violence will set in, punctuated by larger campaigns financed and aided by foreign powers. Violence and exploitation within sects will most likely worsen, as the neighborhood militias and gangs that carried out the ethnic cleansing increasingly fight among themselves over turf, protection rackets, and trade. As in Lebanon, there will probably be a good deal of intervention by neighboring states -- especially Iran -- but it will not necessarily bring them great strategic gains. To the contrary, it may bring them a great deal of grief, just as it has the United States.


When they do finally end, civil wars typically conclude with a decisive military victory for one side. Of the roughly 55 civil wars fought for control of a central government (as opposed to for secession or regional autonomy) since 1955, fully 75 percent ended with a clear victory for one side. The government ultimately crushed the rebels in at least 40 percent of the 55 cases, whereas the rebels won control of the center in 35 percent. Power-sharing agreements that divide up control of a central government among the combatants have been far less common. By my reckoning, at best, 9 of the 55 cases, or about 16 percent, ended this way. Examples include El Salvador in 1992, South Africa in 1994, and Tajikistan in 1997.

If successful power-sharing agreements rarely end civil wars, it is not for lack of effort. Negotiations on power sharing are common in the midst of civil wars, as are failed attempts, often with the help of outside intervention by states or international institutions, to implement such agreements. The point of departure for both the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the rebel attack that ended it, for example, was the failure of an extensive power-sharing agreement between the Rwandan government, Hutu opposition parties, and the Tutsi insurgents.

Power-sharing agreements rarely work in large part because civil wars cause combatants to be organized in a way that produces mutually reinforcing fears and temptations: combatants are afraid that the other side will use force to grab power and at the same time are tempted to use force to grab power themselves. If one militia fears that another will try to use force to win control of the army or a city, then it has a strong incentive to use force to prevent this. The other militia understands this incentive, which gives it a good reason to act exactly as the first militia feared. In the face of these mutual, self-fulfilling fears, agreements on paper about dividing up or sharing control of political offices, the military, or, say, oil revenues are often just that -- paper. They may survive while a powerful third party implicitly threatens to prevent violent power grabs (as the United States has done in Iraq), but they are likely to disintegrate otherwise.

The Bush administration has attempted to help put in place an Iraqi government based on a power-sharing agreement among Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders, but it has done so in the midst of an escalating civil war. The historical evidence suggests that this is a Sisyphean task. The effective provision of security by an intervening power may even undermine the belief that the government could stand on its own without the third party's backing. U.S. military intervention in Iraq is thus unlikely to produce a government that can survive by itself whether the troops stay ten more months or ten more years.

Could Iraq in 2007 be one of the rare cases in which power sharing successfully ends a civil war? Examining earlier such cases suggests that they have two distinctive features that make power sharing feasible. First, a stable agreement is typically reached only after a period of fighting has clarified the relative military capabilities of the various sides. Each side needs to come to the conclusion that it cannot get everything it wants by violence. For example, the Dayton agreement that divided power among the parties to the Bosnian war required not only NATO intervention to get them to the table and enforce the deal but also more than three years of intense fighting, which had brought the combatants essentially to a stalemate by the summer of 1995. (Even then, the agreement would not have held, and the government would surely have collapsed, if not for a continued third-party guarantee from NATO and effective sovereign control by the Office of the High Representative created under Dayton.)

Second, a power-sharing deal tends to hold only when every side is relatively cohesive. How can one party expect that another will live up to its obligations if it has no effective control over its own members? Attempts to construct power-sharing deals to end civil wars in Burundi and Somalia, for example, have been frustrated for years by factionalism within rebel groups. Conversely, the consolidation of power by one rebel faction can sometimes enable a peace agreement -- as occurred prior to the deal that ended the first war between Khartoum and southern Sudanese rebels in 1972.

Neither of these conditions holds for Iraq. First, there are many significant (and well-armed) Sunni groups that seem to believe that without U.S. troops present, they could win back control of Baghdad and the rest of the country. And there are many Shiites, including many with guns, who believe that as the majority group they can and will maintain political domination of Iraq. Moreover, among the Shiites, Muqtada al-Sadr seems to believe that he could wrest control from his rivals if the United States left. Indeed, if the United States withdraws, violence between Shiite militias will likely escalate further. Open fighting between Shiite militias might, in turn, reaffirm the Sunni insurgents' belief that they will be able to retake power.

Second, both the Sunnis and the Shiites are highly factionalized, at the national political level and at the level of neighborhood militias and gangs. Shiite politicians are divided into at least four major parties, and one of these, Dawa (the party of Prime Minister Maliki), has historically been divided into three major factions. Sadr is constantly described in the U.S. media as the leader of the largest and most aggressive Shiite militia in Iraq, but it has never been clear if he can control what the militias who praise his name actually do. The Iraqi Sunnis are similarly divided among tribes outside of Baghdad, and the organizational anarchy of Sunni Islam seems to make groupwide coordination extremely difficult.

If Maliki had the authority of a Nelson Mandela, and a party organization with the (relative) coherence and dominance of the African National Congress in the antiapartheid struggle, he would be able to move more effectively to incorporate and co-opt various Sunni leaders into the government without fear of undermining his own power relative to that of his various Shiite political adversaries. He would also be better able to make credible commitments to deliver on promises made to Sunni leaders. As it is, intra-Shiite political rivalries render the new government almost completely dysfunctional. Its ministers see their best option as cultivating militias (or ties to militias) for current and coming fights, extortion rackets, and smuggling operations.

Tragically, more civil war may be the only way to reach a point where power sharing could become a feasible solution to the problem of governing Iraq. More fighting holds the prospect of clarifying the balance of forces and creating pressures for internal consolidation on one or both sides, thereby providing stronger grounds for either a victory by one side or a stable negotiated settlement. Should the latter eventually come into view, some sort of regional or international peacekeeping force will almost surely be required to help bring it into being. The Iraq Study Group report is quite right that Washington should be setting up diplomatic mechanisms for such eventualities, sooner rather than later.


Hopefully, this analysis is too pessimistic. Perhaps Iraq's elected politicians will muddle through, and perhaps the Iraqi army will, with U.S. support, develop the capability and motivation to act effectively and evenhandedly against insurgents and militias on all sides. The optimistic scenario is so unlikely, however, that policymakers must consider the implications if civil war in Iraq continues and escalates.

Suppose that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad continues and Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias continue to fight one another, U.S. troops, and civilians. If the Bush administration sticks to its "stay the course toward victory" approach, of which the surge option is the latest incarnation, it will become increasingly apparent that this policy amounts to siding with the Shiites in an extremely vicious Sunni-Shiite war. U.S. troops may play some positive role in preventing human rights abuses by Iraqi army units and slowing down violence and ethnic cleansing. But as long as the United States remains committed to trying to make this Iraqi government "succeed" on the terms President Bush has laid out, there is no escaping the fact that the central function of U.S. troops will be to backstop Maliki's government or its successor. That security gives Maliki and his coalition the ability to tacitly pursue (or acquiesce in) a dirty war against actual and imagined Sunni antagonists while publicly supporting "national reconciliation."

This policy is hard to defend on the grounds of either morality or national interest. Even if Shiite thugs and their facilitators in the government could succeed in ridding Baghdad of Sunnis, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to suppress the insurgency in the Sunni-majority provinces in western Iraq or to prevent attacks in Baghdad and other places where Shiites live. In other words, the current U.S. policy probably will not lead to a decisive military victory anytime soon, if ever. And even if it did, would Washington want it to? The rise of a brutal, ethnically exclusivist, Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad would further the perception of Iran as the ascendant regional power. Moreover, U.S. backing for such a government would give Iraqi Sunnis and the Sunni-dominated countries in the Middle East no reason not to support al Qaeda as an ally in Iraq. By spurring these states to support Sunni forces fighting the Shiite government, such backing would ultimately pit the United States against those states in a proxy war.

To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington's commitment to Maliki's government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States less as a committed ally of the "Persians" and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing. Washington would also have more leverage with Iran and Syria, because the U.S. military would not be completely bogged down in Baghdad and Anbar Province -- and because both of those countries have a direct interest in avoiding increased chaos in Iraq.

Again, none of this would make for a quick end to the civil war, which will probably last for some time in any event. But it would allow the United States to move toward a balancing role that would be more conducive to ultimately gaining a stable resolution in which Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish interests are represented in a decent Iraqi government.

Despite the horrific violence currently tearing Iraq apart, in the long run there is hope for the return of a viable Iraqi state based on a political bargain among Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders. Indeed, they may end up cooperating on terms set by a constitution similar to the current one -- although only after a significant period of fighting. The basis for an Iraqi state is the common interest of all parties, especially the elites, in the efficient exploitation of oil resources. Continued civil war could persuade Shiite leaders that they cannot fully enjoy oil profits and political control without adequately buying off Sunni groups, who can maintain a costly insurgency. And civil war could persuade the Sunnis that a return to Sunni dominance and Shiite quiescence is impossible. Kurdish leaders have an interest in the autonomy they have already secured but with access to functioning oil pipelines leading south.

There are, of course, other possible outcomes of continued civil war in Iraq, including a formal breakup of the country or a decisive victory south of the Kurdish areas by a Sunni- or Shiite-dominated military organization that would impose a harsh dictatorship. Insofar as the United States can influence the ultimate outcome, neither of these is as good a long-term policy objective as a power-sharing agreement. As the Iraq Study Group has argued, attempting to impose some kind of partition would probably increase the killing. In addition, there are no obvious defensible borders to separate Sunnis from Shiites; the Sunnis would not rest content with an oil-poor patch of western Iraq; it is not clear that new Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish states would be much more peaceful than Iraq is at present; and there would be considerable economic inefficiencies from making three states from one in this area. It is conceivable that civil war will someday lead the combatants in Iraq to agree on Iraq's partition anyway, but this is a decision for Iraqis rather than outsiders to make.

Most civil wars end with a decisive military victory -- and this one may as well -- but a decisive military victory and political dictatorship for some Sunni or Shiite group is even less appealing as a long-term U.S. policy objective. A decisive military victory for a Shiite-dominated faction would favor both Iran and al Qaeda, and a decisive victory for Sunni insurgents would amount to restoring oppressive minority rule, a major reason for the current mess.

Two less extreme outcomes would be much better for most Iraqis, for regional peace and stability, and for U.S. interests in the region. The first would be a power-sharing agreement among a small number of Iraqi actors who actually commanded a military force and controlled territory, to be stabilized at least initially by an international peacekeeping operation. The second would be the rise of a dominant military force whose leader had both the inclination and the ability to cut deals with local "warlords" or political bosses from all other groups. Neither outcome can be imposed at this point by the United States. Both could be reached only through fighting and bargaining carried out primarily by Iraqis.

To facilitate either outcome, the U.S. government would have to pursue a policy of balancing, using diplomatic, financial, and possibly some military tools to encourage the perception that no one group or faction can win without sharing power and resources. A balancing policy might be pursued from "offshore," implemented mainly by supplying monetary and material support to tactical allies, or "onshore," possibly drawing on air strikes or other forms of U.S. military intervention originating from bases in Iraq or close by. The mechanics would necessarily depend on a complicated set of diplomatic, political, and military contingencies. The important point is that the only alternative to some form of balancing policy would be to support decisive victory by one side or the other, which would probably be undesirable even in the unlikely event that victory came soon.

Even if the coming "surge" in U.S. combat troops manages to lower the rate of killing in Baghdad, very little in relevant historical experience or the facts of this case suggests that U.S. troops would not be stuck in Iraq for decades, keeping sectarian and factional power struggles at bay while fending off jihadist and nationalist attacks. The more likely scenario is that the Bush administration's commitment to the "success" of the Maliki government will make the United States passively complicit in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing. Standing back to adopt a more evenhanded policy in the civil war already in progress is a more sensible and defensible course. To pursue it, the Bush administration or its successor would first have to give up on the idea that a few more U.S. brigades or a change in U.S. tactics will make for an Iraq that can, in President Bush's words, "govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself" once U.S. troops are gone.

This is a pretty bleak assessment of both the US strategy for what I call the ”war against barbarism”* and the likely political outcomes of that strategy for the entire Middle East.

At the risk of repeating myself: I think the Iraq civil war is not a classical ‘national’ civil war.  I think it is just part of a series of simultaneous and overlapping civil wars amongst the Shiite and Sunni religious groups and, simultaneously, amongst the Arab, Kurdish and Persian ‘cultural’ groups.  I think the war cannot be contained within the borders of Iraq.  I think it will spread to embrace Iran and Syria and, almost certainly – for religious reasons, Saudi Arabia, and – for political and ‘cultural’ reasons, Jordan, too.  Turkey is, also, likely to be dragged in to a Iran/Iraq/Turkey vs. Kurdstan conflict.  At various stages and phases of these conflicts friends will become enemies and friends again, and so on – as each political, cultural and religious clash pops up.

I suspect this Middle Eastern version of Europe’s Thirty Years War will be just as long and even more bloody.  I also believe it is an necessary precursor to two strategic essentials for the Middle East: religious reformation and social/political enlightenment.  Without both I believe that the Middle East must end up in a bloody and ultimately destructive – to the Arabs, the Persians and Islam – was with the combined forces modern, secular, liberal-democratic West and the modern, secular, conservative East. 

* Because I think the (or any) war on terror is a downright silly idea.
The insurgency in Iraq does have a religious component but its all about power. The Sunni's have enjoyed a position of privilege and power in Iraq for well over 30 years at least. The Shia have been the majority underclass. Now with the fall of Saddam and elections the majority have come to power. The Sunni insurgency is determined to turn back the clock and restore Sunni dominance.The militant Shia groups supported by Iran is a second front for the coalition. These militants with Iranian support are attacking the Sunni's to initiate a sort of ethnic cleansing which has worked. Thousands of Sunni's have either left Iraq entirely or have moved to provinces with majority sunni populations. The other aspect of this are attacks by shia militants against coalition forces. All of this kicked off last summer when the Israeli's went into Lebanon.

The US/Iraqi forces have targeted Sdar's militia in the past 2 months which has caused divisions and a loss of influence of Sadr hence his departure to Iran. This leave's the Badr militia as the sole Iranian asset and conduit for Iran's entry to dominate Iraq.Oddly enough Iran has also supported the sunni insurgency financially and materially.

During the same time frame the US has targeted the AQ leadership with great success including the capture of the #2 man.Much of the bloodshed has targeted sunni and shia civilians by both groups in a tit for tat.Iran's strategy seems to me is to split the shia population as well to prevent effective action. Under great US pressure the Maliki government has evidently decided that having Iranian proxies running Iraq is not good. There is a historical enmity between Iran and Iraq.Due to the pilgrimage of Iranians to the shia holy places the Iraqi people know that life under the clerics isnt much fun and dont really want an Iranian style of theocracy.

Some of the mistakes made in Iraq were the result of putting the State Dept in charge of the occupation.They had zero experience with adminsitration a conquered nation.The military should have had this task as it did in post war Germany and Japan.Anyway its safe to say that the majority of Iraq's provinces are quiet with little or no violence. The battleground remains Baghdad and the neighboring provinces of Diyala and the Sunni provinces.
CNN story confirming the capture of a Quds Force BG back in December.

Military holding a top leader of Iranian force in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. troops in Iraq are holding a top leader of an Iranian special forces group believed to be supplying weapons to insurgents who are targeting and killing U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. officials said Monday.

Brig. Gen. Mohsen Chirazi, said to be the third-ranking officer in the Iranian Quds Force, was arrested in late December during a raid at the home of a man connected to the leader of the top Shiite party in Iraq with deep ties to the Iranian government, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, according to U.S. officials.

The Quds Force is a paramilitary arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and has helped direct attacks on Iraqi and U.S. forces inside Iraq, President Bush, Defense Secretary Gates and other senior military leaders have said.

U.S. officials would not say where the general is being held in Iraq. The arrest was among the first in a series of raids and arrests by U.S. forces on Iranians in Iraq, who the United States blames for meddling in the security situation inside that country. --From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 12:55 p.m.)
I found this essay by Steven Den Beste, which was very insightful. Sadly, Mr Den Beste no longer blogs

What are we fighting for?

Stardate 20010916

        Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men,
        Uncle Sam needs your help again.
        He's got himself in a terrible jam
        Way down yonder in Vietnam
        So put down your books and pick up a gun,
        We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.

        And it's one, two, three,
        What are we fighting for?
        Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
        Next stop is Vietnam;
        And it's five, six, seven,
        Open up the pearly gates,
        Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
        Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

            -- Fixin'-to-die Rag, Country Joe MacDonald, 1968

Clausewitz wrote that to really understand a war you have to understand the politics of all the participants in it. You can't talk about strategies or tactics or logistics without that; you can't know how you can fight if you don't know why you are fighting -- and why your opponent is fighting. A tactic which would be impossible for one side in one war (such as suicide attacks) may be routine for another side in another war.

So what are we fighting for? We're in a war, but what is this war about? It has to be more than revenge, and it is. We're fighting over the most basic and important issues there are. The war we are now in is actually centuries old.

All wars are about disagreements. Clausewitz, again, pointed out that a war happens because the participants have a disagreement which they can't settle by diplomacy. War is diplomacy by other means. The more important the issue, the more important (and savage) the war.

In this case, the disagreement is about the most important thing there is: how humans should live with each other and how they should be governed, and what they should be permitted to think.

As an American, my side in this war believes in freedom, diversity, liberty. This political movement began in the Renaissance; was nurtured in Northern Europe (especially in the Netherlands), blossomed in North America and now threatens to take over the world. (I think it will, though it may take a thousand more years to finally triumph.) It is already the most powerful political system there is.

It has faced many opposing political beliefs but all of them have this in common: they're all authoritarian. They believe in central control, in imposition of order and uniformity on their people, in the acts of a few making decisions for the many. Sometimes that control is politically motivated and sometimes it is religious or moral. Sometimes it was merely habit and tradition. But the central theme of this centuries-old war has been freedom versus authoritarianism.

By contrast, my side in this war believes that individuals and small groups should have as much power as they practically can. These are not black-and-white positions, usually; people living in authoritarian regimes can have some freedom, and people in my country put up with some degree of central control. It's more a matter of degree and fundamental philosophy: my country imposes central control only when nothing else will do; an authoritarian regime grants freedoms to its people only when that doesn't threaten the ability of its government to control by decree.

The ultimate test of the American system of government came in 1974. A sitting President had shown total contempt for Constitutional guarantees; he wanted to become an authoritarian leader such as led countries elsewhere in the world. And within two years he had been deposed and replaced, without anyone dying. No shots were fired; none were even threatened. No troops were mobilized. Good and conscientious men in the Senate and House of Representatives convinced him to resign by threatening to remove him from power through impeachment. Our system survived. And we didn't even punish Nixon afterwards; there was no need. He didn't even have to go into exile. This is unprecedented.

The first war actually about this issue was the American Revolution, which established my government. It's far from perfect, but when the US Constitution was written, and especially after it was amended with the Bill of Rights, it became the most radical experiment in government the world had yet seen. In my opinion, the First Amendment to the US constitution is the most profound and important single sentence ever written, in English or any other language:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That single sentence summarizes the core of the philosophy on which our nation was founded: that individual rights are of paramount importance, and that individuals must be able to communicate with one another without fearing retribution from the government. Even more, it establishes that individuals have the right to disagree with the government and to criticize it publicly. Nothing like that had ever been seen before; there had been places where free expression and dissent were tolerated, but never before a place where protection for such expression was formally codified into the very charter of the government.

And though the US system is flawed, and though it has continued to evolve, and though its progress through time has sometimes been shameful, on balance it has been a great thing. It hasn't totally fulfilled the promise of the First Amendment but it has done a far better job of it than any other nation that has ever existed.

The test of freedom is diversity. If you think you have freedom but you are not surrounded by diversity, then your freedom is an illusion. When someone says "You are free to be just like I think you should be" then you are not free. People vary; left to themselves they will follow radically different paths, think different things, live different life styles. If you don't see that around you, it's because it is being suppressed artificially.

No nation on earth is more diverse or tolerates more diversity than the US.

There have been forces within the US which have tried to suppress diversity. It's been an ongoing struggle over the entire history of the nation; and over time diversity has won, which proves that our freedom has expanded. This process is ongoing; it may never end. It is a paradox of freedom that part of the diversity it tolerates, even encourages, is people who oppose freedom. As long as they are not permitted to dominate and roll back diversity, freedom is not damaged. But they always attempt it, and the struggle will continue.

Who opposes us in this centuries-long war? Various forces who attempt to impose uniformity on their populations. Those who would reserve control and decision making to a favored few, and require that the multitude follow along with those decisions. Interestingly, they believe in freedom too -- but only for an elite. Their elite actually are more free than our elite, because freedom is a balancing act. If I am more free then you must be less so. If any single person is infinitely free than no-one else can be free at all. My system of government has as its goal the maximization overall of freedom for as many people as possible; the authoritarian regimes try to maximize the amount of freedom that an elite have, at the expense of the majority.

For their own good, of course. Many (though not all) authoritarian leaders genuinely believe that what they are doing is for the benefit of their people. They believe that their people are not wise enough to make decisions for themselves, and fear that if they are permitted to do so that they will make the wrong ones. This is both arrogant and contemptuous. My nation's system believes that people should be given the opportunity to make mistakes for themselves.

The first major war in this struggle pitted the forces of Freedom against the forces of authoritarian Monarchy. That was the American Revolution. Freedom won and gained its first opportunity to reign in a nation. (The British monarchy still had direct power of decree in the latter half of the 18th century; that wasn't lost for another fifty years.)

The second major war pitted the forces of Freedom against the forces in favor of Slavery, perhaps one of two ultimate manifestations of authoritarianism we have ever faced. (More on the other later.) In the system of slavery, many people have no freedom at all and can even be tortured or killed with impunity. It took a great war in which hundreds of thousands of men died or were wounded to settle that issue, and Freedom won that time, too.

Monarchy again reared its head and was definitively terminated by World War I. The democratic powers of the UK, France and the US faced the monarchial powers of Germany, Austria and Turkey and ultimately defeated them. Just to show how complex history is, the democratic powers were aided by the monarchies of Russia and Italy.

But the outcome of the war was unambiguous in this sense: within fifteen years of the end of World War I, no major monarchy in the classic sense existed anywhere on Earth. Austria was broken up; the monarchy of Germany overthrown, the monarchy of Turkey fell to a revolution as did the one in Russia. The monarchy of Italy, already weakened, lapsed into the "constitutional" model established by the UK. The monarchy of China was already gone before WWI; the monarchy of France fell in 1870. No world power in 1930 was ruled by a king; some still had kings but they were figureheads only, symbols but with little real power. Some real kingdoms still existed but they were politically unimportant. The only monarch who still had that kind of power was Emperor Hirohito in Japan, but he didn't use it and tried to reign according to the precedent set by Queen Victoria of the UK.

World War II pitted Democracy against Fascism; this was a straightforward fight against naked Authoritarianism. Again, the democratic nations of earth united against the Fascist nations and prevailed. And again, some authoritarian regimes allied with the democratic nations and emerged victorious, especially the USSR.

This is an interesting point: there is not to my knowledge a single case in history where two major democratic capitalist nations have fought a major war against each other, but authoritarian regimes oppose each other constantly. The direct conflict between Fascist Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, both authoritarian, is probably the single bloodiest war in history. Democracies can unite with each other because they accept diversity even among their own ranks and recognize that their interests lay in common. Authoritarian regimes come into conflict because their political philosophy ultimately excludes all other systems except their own, even excluding other Authoritarian regimes. Sometimes in history the Authoritarian regimes will ally with the Democratic regimes, out of self interest. In the long run it has never done them any good, and the USSR is the best example of that.

One reason why democratic nations don't fight is that their capitalist economies are invariably heavily cross-invested. A war between them would destroy the economies of both nations. This is no small benefit to the system.

Within three years of the end of World War II, where the USSR was an ally of the Democratic nations, the Cold War had begun. This pitted the Democratic nations against a coalition of Communist nations ultimately ruled from Moscow. Because of the advent of nuclear weapons, a straightforward battle between the two sides, which might have settled the issue in perhaps five years, wasn't possible. Such a war would have escalated into a full-blown nuclear exchange which would have destroyed both sides. So the Cold War was fought as a series of proxy battles, in places with names like Korea, Viet Nam and Afghanistan. The two sides never directly fought; the closest they came was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At least one side in the various battles of the Cold war was always a lesser power representing one side; sometimes both sides were proxies. In 1980, President Reagan's administration finally realized that the Cold War was really an economic battle rather than a military one and this gave the US a dramatic advantage, since its economy was much bigger and more powerful than that of the USSR. So the US substantially increased defense spending and deployed new weapons at an unprecedented rate in "peace time". Those weapons were never used but they won the war; the USSR had to try to match those increases or risk losing military parity, but by so doing it destroyed its own economic base. This led to the collapse of the USSR as a nation within ten years, and the Cold War ended about 1990. Communism is defanged; it still rules, in name, in China but authoritarianism is crumbling there too.

And yet again, over the course of the Cold War, the democratic nations made alliances with some authoritarian powers against others. But the democratic nations never fought each other.

The reason that democracy and freedom are so powerful is because they are, ironically, more efficient than authoritarianism. Capitalism is the most productive economic system ever created, but it can only work in a free nation because it is the result of enlightened self-interest, Adam Smith's invisible hand. People will work harder for themselves than they will for some ideal indoctrinated into them, as the USSR discovered. People worked hard for Mother Russia during WWII, but not during the majority of the Cold War. The USSR fell because its economy couldn't keep up with that of the US, even though it had more people than the US and at least as many natural resources. US workers were then, and still remain, the most productive on Earth, and there is a direct correlation between how productive workers in a nation are and how free they are. For the last 150 years, God has fought on the side of the biggest guns; big guns are expensive, and Capitalism has more money than anyone else. Which is why Freedom keeps winning. Not every time, and sometimes after long struggle, but in the long run it does keep winning. Though there may be years-long setbacks, over the course of decades democracy has spread and prospered at the expense of authoritarianism.

The forces of Freedom emerged victorious, again, and became even more powerful than ever before. The Cold War was the last critical battle of this struggle. The Communist system was the last system in the world which actually had the ability to wipe out the democratic nations. Our future is now secure.

Now the democratic nations are challenged, again, and yet again the opponent is authoritarian. This time the enemy is Theocracy, and it is the last major Authoritarian movement remaining on Earth. It is not as powerful as Communism was, and it does not have the ability to destroy Freedom -- though it damned well intends to try. But it can destroy individuals, maybe thousands of them, in the free nations and that is enough to make a war worth fighting. Authoritarianism is on the run, but the war against it continues.

Christian Theocracy in Europe was defeated in the 300 years leading up to the American Revolution. By the end of the 18th century, the power of the Church to directly control government had vanished. In the 13th century, a monarch threatened with excommunication by the Pope would usually buckle under. By the 19th century, such a pronouncement from Rome would have inspired laughter even in Catholic nations.

Hindu Theocracy fell when the Indian sub-continent was conquered by the Europeans, and never rose again. Shinto theocracy in Japan fell at the end of World War II. These religions still exercise some political influence but no longer have direct control. No other religion has ever had that degree of political influence, except one.

Islamic theocracy is alive and well. And in its most extreme form, it represents a form of autocratic rule rivaling that of Slavery.

The attack which started the war we are now in was launched from within the most autocratic Theocracy on earth, against the largest and most powerful Democratic nation on earth. And not just against anything; its main target was a building complex whose very purpose was to celebrate and encourage economic and cultural diversity, and cross-investment between capitalist nations. It was a global meeting place for the world's capitalist powers.

Those are the lines which are drawn in the sand. Those are the two sides in this conflict. And yet again, the forces of democracy will be united, and the forces of authoritarianism will be divided with some of them siding with the democracies. And I truly believe that the democracies will win, yet again.

But as with all the other major wars in this conflict, this one will be long and expensive and painful. It will kill thousands. And it will be worthwhile. Fifty years after it ends, the people of the world will be glad it was fought and won, just as we are glad that World War II was fought and won.

The danger to freedom is that during times of crisis it must accept more centralized control; it is always in danger of becoming what it fights against. This must be resisted. Because the diversity of a free nation permits believers in autocracy to exist within it, those autocrats always pop out during times of crisis and try to grow from within that which our enemies outside have never been able to impose on us. We must stay alert to prevent this, and we will.

This is not a war against Islam, though most of our enemies will be Islamic. This is a war against the forces of Uniformity, against the forces of Authoritarianism. It is a war against those governments who try to control the lives and thoughts of the people in their nations -- and in ours. Some authoritarian regimes will ally with us but may be changed anyway, possibly through later wars or possible from within. If they adopt our economic system then they will inevitably be changed by that if by nothing else. In the mean time, the Democracies are pragmatic and patient; their aid will be welcome; their time will come. Anyway, we're not really evangelistic.

The progress and spread of freedom worldwide will continue; this war won't end for centuries. This is not the last flare-up of struggles by other political systems against Freedom. But the progress and expansion of Freedom is now assured, as long as it guards against collapse from within.

Consider the response of the US against three major authoritarian systems of the past: Slavery, Fascism and Communism. In all three cases, the US tolerated those other systems until they directly challenged the US and threatened it -- by secession, in the case of Slavery, and by direct attack in the other two cases (respectively, Pearl Harbor and the Berlin crisis). Once that happened, the US (and its democratic allies in the latter two cases) raised its power and fought as long and as hard as it needed to permanently settle the issue. The Cold War lasted 43 years. And so it will be here. The Democratic nations were willing to tolerate Theocracy -- freedom is about diversity -- but the Theocratic nations find the existence of Freedom intolerable, because it is infectious. Common citizens like our system better than any other, which is why it prospers. No-one ever asks to have their own freedoms taken away; it's always someone else's freedom that they want taken away, "for their own good".

Citizens in autocratic nations learn about how things are in the Democratic nations and begin to agitate for the same freedoms at home. Modern telecommunications makes it inevitable that they will learn. Autocratic nations adopt Capitalism (because they can't compete otherwise) and modern telecommunications, and then discover that you can't have Capitalism without freedom, and that this then challenges the Authoritarian government. It's not that the Democratic nations are actively trying to spread their philosophy as a deliberate political action the way that Communism tried to, and Islamic Theocracy is now trying to do; it's just that it happens naturally. Freedom happens because it is what the majority of people want. (There have been a few cases where the Democracies deliberately tried to foster such changes in other nations, but they are not common.)

Authoritarian regimes have always recognized that the existence of Free nations elsewhere was a threat to the Authoritarian system. The Free nations are not threatened by the existence of Authoritarian nations until and unless those nations attack in one way or another.

So the wars in this struggle since the American Revolution were always started by the other side. (Note that not every war the US has been in was part of it; for example, the Spanish-American war was not.)

And so it is this time. The mere existence of Free nations represents an intolerable threat to the Islamic Theocracies, and now one of them has attacked the US. The US and its allies will now crush not just that Theocracy but all the others which choose to ally with it, and all the independent political movements around the world which hope to create theocracies. And freedom will spread even further.

Once Islamic theocracy is crushed, Islam will be welcome in the community of free nations, just as Christianity is.