Small Wars Journal

NY Times Reporter John Burns on Iraq

Charlie Rose Show - 17 July 2007


Charlie, I guess we would love to have that crystal ball, and so would the people in Congress who are trying to decide this matter. Some parts of that I do agree with. I think it's pretty clear that the majority Shiites are increasingly confident that if the U.S. troops go, they will have the upper hand. The 60 percent majority they have, the control of the armed forces that they have. The oil resources in the south would give them quickly an upper hand in what would be in effect an all-out civil war.

I think there's quite a lot of reasons to worry about whether or not they're right about that, not to worry about it, to question it. The Sunnis are not going to roll over. The Sunnis are good fighters. They ruled this country for most of the last 1,200 years or this -- at least this terrain. They have the backing of the hinterland of the - of the Sunni Arab world, and I think the outcome would be very much in doubt.

But the one thing I think that virtually all of us who - who work here or have worked here for any length of time agree is that the levels of violence would eclipse by quite a long way the bloodshed we've seen to date.

Well, I think, quite simply that the United States armed forces here -- and I find this to be very widely agreed amongst Iraqis that I know, of all ethnic and sectarian backgrounds -- the United States armed forces are a very important inhibitor against violence. I know it's argued by some people that they provoke the violence. I simply don't believe that to be in the main true. I think it's a much larger truth that where American forces are present, they are inhibiting sectarian violence, and they are going after the people, particularly al-Qa'ida and the Shiite death squads, who are provoking that violence. Remove them or at least remove them quickly, and it seems to me -- controversial as this may seem to be saying in the present circumstances, while I know there's this agonizing debate going on in the United States about this -- that you have to weigh the price. And the price would very likely be very, very high levels of violence, at least in the short run and perhaps, perhaps - perhaps for quite a considerable period of time.


Brian H

Sun, 07/22/2007 - 11:59pm

Follow-up interesting note: apparently SH had a pretty good idea the oil was there, but <b>forbade</b> formal exploration, in order to keep the Sunni sweet and dependent.

Brian H

Sun, 07/22/2007 - 11:55pm

Gah. When will people get off this "poor oil-less Sunnis" crock? Haven't y'all been following the news? Recent estimates of unproven reserves in Anbar are on the order of 100 billion barrels. That would then be 100/215 of the Iraqi total. The take-away is that the Anbar Sunni would be 3X oil-richer per capita than the ROI.

So, no poor-cousin resentment. No resource-grabbing civil wars. So sorry.