Washington, March 19: America has begun making plans to deal with a civil war in Iraq, three years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
As sectarian violence continues to claim lives every day, Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, has disclosed that US military intelligence is holding war games to predict what might happen in such a situation.
Rumsfeld’s admission that “the intelligence community are thinking about this and analysing it” comes despite the White House’s insistence that Iraq is not slipping into civil war.
As tomorrow’s third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, the administration is under pressure to devise strategies in the event of conflict.
President George W. Bush and his officials have so far refused to discuss what has become known as the “Plan B” scenario, declaring that the US military will stay in Iraq until a stable, democratic government is established.
But this policy is being challenged by Congress, which last week announced an inquiry to assess the situation. The bipartisan panel of senior members has said it will “take fresh eyes on the target” and recommend a course to deal with civil war.
Democratic senator Joe Biden said the inquiry would “not only look at the situation as it exists now, but look at potential alternatives based on a Plan B or a Plan C, depending on what happens on the ground”.
There are signs that the internal strife, that has affected much of central and southern Iraq, may be spreading.
Last week, rioting broke out in the Kurdish-controlled north, until now free of violence. A teenage boy died when security forces fired at a crowd of about 7,000 protesting at alleged government corruption.
New fighting flared north of Baghdad last Saturday as a joint US-Iraqi force scoured the Sunni Muslim heartland in the third day of a counter-insurgency operation. Iraq’s government claimed that the operation captured suspects in the killing of a prominent journalist.