BAGHDAD - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iraq was in the grip of civil
war as US and Iraqi forces attacked insurgent bases in a bid to shore up the
authority of a government itself riven by factional rivalries.
In Washington, outgoing
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was revealed to have acknowledged in a memo
just before he lost his job that US strategy was not working and it might be
better to reduce troop numbers.
A group of suspected insurgents who were detained by joint US
and Iraqi forces wait inside an Iraqi military camp near Baquba, 60 km (40
miles) northeast of Baghdad, December 3, 2006. [Reuters]
President George W. Bush has repeatedly rejected recent assertions in the
mainstream media that Iraq is now embroiled in a civil war. Annan's remarks, to
the BBC, might add to pressure for a swift change of policy.
"When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil
war -- this is much worse," Annan said.
He agreed with Iraqis who said life was worse now than it was under deposed
president Saddam Hussein.
"If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison --
that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could
go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or
father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?" Annan said.
"And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under
control," he added.
In western Anbar province, two US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb on
Saturday and three Marines died from wounds sustained from enemy action, the US
The Rumsfeld memo, written a day before voter dismay over Iraq cost the
Republicans control of Congress, said: "It is time for a major adjustment.
Clearly, what US forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough
or fast enough."
Rumsfeld, a leading planner of the Iraq war, outlined several options but
Among them were reductions in US forces and bases and a recasting of the US
goals there. He suggested cutting US bases to just five from 55 by mid-2007.
The presence of 140,000 US troops and the loss of more than 2,800 American
lives in the past 3-1/2 years has failed to end bloodshed in Iraq.
Sectarian violence between Saddam's once-dominant Sunni minority and the
newly empowered Shi'ite Muslim majority claimed a record 3,700 lives in October,
the United Nations estimated, and the latest Iraqi data suggested civilian
deaths rose by more than another 40 percent last month alone.
Fifty-one people were killed at a Baghdad market on Saturday by a triple car
bomb attack, 10 days after the worst attack of the conflict killed over 200
people in the capital.
The Rumsfeld memo adds to a debate expected to gather steam when the
bipartisan Iraq Study Group gives its recommendations on Wednesday. The group,
co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, a long-time Bush family
adviser, is widely expected to inform a possible shift in US strategy.
In Iraq, US troops and the Iraqi forces the Americans are counting on to take
on the burden of stifling civil war, were on the offensive in Baquba, a city 60
km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.
Baquba has seen Sunni insurgents, including al Qaeda Islamist militants,
driving out Shi'ite Muslims, while Shi'ite militias have attacked Sunnis in
surrounding areas. Three rebels were killed and 44 detained in the offensive,
the military said.
Annan, who has proposed an eventual international conference on Iraq, which
Baghdad's leaders have rejected, said Iraqis would have to unite to bring this
about but needed outside help.
"But some of the key things they have to do is the constitutional review,
really looking at issues of revenue sharing - oil and taxation revenues, how do
you share it fairly," he said.