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Monday, October 09, 2006

Civil War Would Engulf Entire Mideast If US Departs Iraq


Washington: An immediate pullout of US troops would unleash an civil war that could engulf the entire Middle East, former senior US statesman James Baker warned Sunday. "I think that if we picked up and left right now that you would see the biggest civil war you've ever seen," Baker told ABC television on Sunday.

"Every neighboring country would be involved in there, doing its own thing, Turkey, Iran, Syria, you name it, and even our friends in the Gulf," he said.

He also rejected a plan by a top US lawmaker, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, which would carve the country into three autonomous regions: Sunni, Shiite and Kurd.

"If we do that, that in itself will trigger a huge civil war because the major cities in Iraq are mixed," said Baker, a former secretary of state under US President George Herbert Walker Bush.

"There's no way to draw lines between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in the major cities of Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk. And furthermore, there are no boundaries between the Sunni areas and the Shiite areas in Iraq," said Baker, who, during his decades-long career also served as secretary of the US Treasury, White House chief of staff, manager of three presidential campaigns.

"The minute you say you're going to do that and make three autonomous regions, you're likely you're likely to kick off a big civil war," said Baker.

Baker currently serves as chairman of the US-Congress-mandated Iraq Survey Group, tasked with plotting the way forward toward building civil society in the war-torn country.

"What we're going to come up, hopefully, with some recommendations that the Congress and the president and the country can look at. We're going to make it public the day we present it to the president," he said, adding that it's "possible" that the commission could complete its work by December or early January.

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