Friday, July 06, 2007

Powell: 'The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms... Shiites will ultimately prevail... It is going to be very ugly'

Above: U.S. and Iraqi 8th Army special forces soldiers watch for militia movement during Operation Jackal in Diwaniyah in June.

There will be more brutal fighting in Iraq's civil war before the pro-Iranian Shiite majority wins, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told an Aspen Ideas Festival audience on Thursday.

"The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms," he said. "It is not going to be pretty to watch, but I don't know any way to avoid it. It is happening now. And the only reason it isn't more explosive is because of the presence of U.S. troops."

Powell took one question from Jim Lehrer of PBS's "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer" and used the opportunity to lay out a 15-minute assessment of the current situation in Iraq.

"Shiites will ultimately prevail because they are 60 percent of the population and their militias can be pretty violent," he said. "They will prevail also because they are determined not to be ruled again by the Sunni, the way they were ruled in the days of Saddam Hussein.

"The Sunnis are struggling for power and survival. And it's going to be resolved by a test of arms," Powell repeated. "It is going to be very ugly."

Powell, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, said the Iraq war has gone from invasion to insurgency to civil war to something "more complex," according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate.

"It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States," he said, adding that all the military can do now is put "a heavier lid on this pot of boiling sectarian stew, but only the Iraqis can turn down or put out the fire."

Read the rest at the Aspen Daily News