- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed yesterday that the military has participated in war games in the event of an Iraq civil war, but does not believe that if it comes the fighting will be of the magnitude of the American Civil War.

As sectarian violence continued in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld said the intelligence community has envisioned what a Shi’ite-Sunni conflict might look like.

“And they should be,” he told a Pentagon press conference. “That’s what people do. Do I think we’re in a civil war at the present time? No.”

Asked when he will know if the violence has escalated to civil war, the defense secretary said, “It’s a hard thing to do, and people are analyzing that and thinking about it. And I think until I’ve had a chance to think more about it and — I will say, I don’t think it’ll look like the United States Civil War.”

Historians estimate that around 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in that war from combat, disease and accidents.

In Iraq, there is no serious talk of either the Kurdish, Shi’ite or Sunni regions seceding from Iraq and forming separate nations. Some Kurds have talked of an independent Kurdistan, but have submitted to the U.S. demand for a central Baghdad government. All three major factions voted in substantial numbers in the Dec. 15 election of a permanent parliament.

So far, talks have bogged down in forming a new power-sharing government. That fact, coupled with a sharp rise in violence after the Feb. 22 bombing of a sacred Shi’ite mosque in Samarra, has heightened talk of civil war.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, said a civil war already has started and wants a quick pullout of U.S. troops.

U.S. commanders disagree.

“I believe that they have looked at the path that leads to civil war and decided they do not want to go in that direction,” said Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, who also appeared at the press conference. “They’re very much looking toward how can they have a unified government. … And there are many, many more voices for unification and freedom amongst the leadership, both elected and religious, in that country than there are voices of opposition.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said he spoke by phone with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who is trying to broker a deal. “I came away from the conversation with Zal with the feeling that he was encouraged because they were leaning less on him and more on themselves in their discussions and negotiations with each other,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld has accused the U.S. press of ignoring successes in Iraq and focusing almost solely on the violence.

About 132,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, a number that could decrease later this year, depending on political progress.

“Do we think we’re going to be there four or five years more, in terms of large numbers of U.S. ground forces?” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “And the answer is ‘no,’ I don’t think so.’”

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