Civil war watch in Iraq

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch:

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We don't see Iraq on the verge of a civil war. I've talked to you about that before. And what I want to do is walk you through our thought process, the indicators that we're watching to see whether or not we're seeing significant increase of violence that could have the traits of a civil war. So I thought it would be helpful if I walked you through our thought process and what we're seeing. So there are indeed four indicators we're watching very closely, and I'll tell you what we see as of now.

The first indicator is ethno-sectarian identities that are the overriding force driving decision-making. People are making decisions based on their particular sect -- Shi'a or Sunni or Kurd -- and not what's good for the people of Iraq. And what we saw with the forming -- with the Council of Representatives and the selection of the prime minister-designate, the Presidential Council and the speaker and his two deputies, was an indication that that particular indicator is not on the upswing but, rather, on a downswing. And we're seeing the formation of a national unity government. I've told you now many times that we're in a period of increased vulnerability while this government forms. But I can't overemphasize the importance of what happened at that Council of Representatives meeting, and the progress that we see, and as a result, the optimism that we have.

Now, as we've talked about before, there are indeed Iraqis, inside of Baghdad specifically, that are concerned about MOI forces and believe that those MOI forces are partisan. And we watch that very closely. And as I've talked about before, any indications that Iraqi security forces, either army or police, are doing something they shouldn't do, we work to investigate with the Iraqi authorities. So that particular indicator is indeed on a downward slide, and we're very optimistic about the political progress that we see as they form this national unity government.

Another indicator would be unrestrained, self-sustained sectarian strife across multiple provinces. We're not seeing that. If there's ethno-sectarian violence, it tends to be isolated in Baghdad and not widespread across Iraq. But even inside of Baghdad, the indicators are on a downward trend. In the last week, in that reporting period 16 to 22 April, inside of Baghdad we could account for 152 ethno- sectarian casualties, which was 60 percent lower than the previous week -- 60 percent -- and the lowest we've seen since the Golden Mosque bombing. So there is still ethno-sectarian violence. We do believe it's concentrated in Baghdad. But we don't see it on an upswing.

Another indicator is ethno-sectarian mobilization. Do we see widespread activation of militias -- Shi'a militias and Sunni militias -- to conduct acts of violence across Iraq? And we're not seeing that. There are indeed militias. We've talked at length about the concerns we have about militia operations, but it's not widespread and it's not across Iraq. We do indeed see some militias conducting intimidation tactics here in Baghdad specifically, and we watch that very closely.

Another indicator for civil war would be forced population movements. And we are extremely sensitive to that. We see reports of tens of thousands of families displaced here in Iraq, and we chase down each and every one of those reports. And I'll show you detail in a minute. But we have seen some displacement, pockets of families moving, but not in large numbers....

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And this is very important. We have not been asked for any assistance for displaced civilians. The provincial government has not asked, the local governments have not asked, the national government has not asked. So if there are indeed 36,000-plus families that have been displaced, we're not seeing it. We indeed move to check every report of displaced civilians. And we were told about displaced civilian camps, and of the 16 that we were told about, we can only confirm the location of four -- one in Fallujah, one in Baghdad, one in al Kut, and one down in Basra. And then when we got the report of 500 families displaced in Basra, we went to confirm, and all we could find was 43 families. So there is indeed indications of displaced persons inside of Iraq. Some of them truly are moving because they're concerned about their own personal security or their family's security, I'm sure of that. Some of them are moving for economic reasons. Some of them are moving to be with their families. But we're not seeing internally displaced persons at the rate which causes us alarm.

... We've never seen us close to a civil war, and all indications now are the acts of violence -- ethno-sectarian violence is decreasing.

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Earlier in the news briefing Maj. Gen. Lynch talked about IED's:

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... Last year, in the October time frame, we averaged finding and clearing about 34 percent of the IEDs that were emplaced. Now we average over 46 percent. And in the last 24 hours, there were 29 IEDs emplaced inside of Baghdad, but 59 percent of those were found and cleared. And out west, 12 IEDs were emplaced, but 50 percent of those were indeed found and cleared. So our increased training, our reliance on advanced technologies and our ability to take the bomb-makers off the street have helped with our operations against IEDs.

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... The reason that, we believe, that we're now finding and clearing about half of the IEDs is because we worked hard to take his bomb-makers off the street. We target those guys who have expertise and intelligence with munitions and take them away, either kill or capture them, and we take away the munitions, as well. And what he's left with are people that don't know to make a bomb or don't know how to emplace a bomb, or with substandard munitions making these IEDs. And that's what happened in this case.

A few days ago in New Baghdad, a bomb detonated. The national police moved to it and find out that what happened was three individuals were trying to put an IED in the back of their car, and when they put the IED in the back of the car, the IED blew up. Killed one and wounded the other two. The other two died enroute to the hospital. But now the national police knew that they were at an area where IEDs were being made, so they started a search.

And they realized that the house from which these insurgents came out of was a house that was on government property, so they worked to bulldoze the house. Over the course of bulldozing the house, they realized that underneath this house was this large stockpile of anti- personnel mines, 340 anti-personnel mines. They continued the excavation and the search over the next several days.

They found a large number of artillery rounds. They talked to some neighbors. The neighbors said, "Yeah, they've been building bombs in that house. But oh, by the way, they're building bombs in this adjacent house as well." They went and searched that adjacent house, and they found in there seven IEDs that were encased in concrete.

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In the weekly briefing there is always more.

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