British ambassador to Iraq predicts civil war and breakup of the country

From the Scotsman

LONDON – Iraq is more likely to slide into civil war than turn into a democracy, Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Baghdad wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable, the BBC reported on Thursday.

William Patey’s final cable from Baghdad gives a far more pessimistic assessment for prospects in Iraq than Britain has disclosed in public. It warns of the prospect of Shi’ite militia forming a “state within a state”, like Hizbollah in Lebanon.

“The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy,” he wrote, according to excerpts quoted by the BBC.

“Even the lowered expectation of President (George W.) Bush for Iraq — a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror — must remain in doubt,” said the cable, sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Describing the main Shi’ite militia, he wrote: “If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing the (Mehdi Army) from developing into a state within a state, as Hizbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority.”

Patey did, however, also say that the situation in Iraq “is not hopeless”.

The Foreign Office said it does not comment on leaked documents.

“Every day the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to manage their own security is growing,” a spokeswoman said.

The view expressed in Patey’s cable reflects pessimism that has settled among senior Iraqi officials as violence has increased in the three months since a new “unity” government took power.

A senior Iraqi government official told Reuters last month that “Iraq as a political project is finished”, with the capital split into Sunni and Shi’ite districts and officials working to divide control of the country on ethnic and sectarian lines.