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Iraqi forces would handle civil war: Rumsfeld

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From DefenseNews


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on March 9 that if an all-out civil war erupts in Iraq, the plan would be for Iraqi government security forces, not U.S. forces, try to deal with the violence.

"The plan is to prevent a civil war," Rumsfeld told a Senate panel in response to questions by Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, "and to the extent one were to occur to have the, from a security standpoint ... the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they’re able to."

Hundreds of people were killed in sectarian violence that flared after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Iraq’s four holiest Shi’ite shrines, and some experts said Iraq appeared to be on a verge of civil war.

"There’s no doubt that the sectarian tensions are higher than we’ve seen, and it is of great concern to all of us. On the other hand, the role played by Iraqi security forces after the Samarra bombing was quite professional. They did a good job," testified Army Gen. John Abizaid, who as head of U.S. Central Command oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Abizaid said the security situation in Iraq was changing in its nature "from insurgency toward sectarian violence," but it was "controllable" by Iraqi security forces and U.S.-led foreign forces.

"It’s also my impression that we need to move quickly to a government of national unity. I regard the current problem as more of a problem of governance than security. But of course they mutually affect one another," Abizaid said.

Iraqi leaders have not yet, after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, formed a new government. U.S. officials have said they would like to see a "unity government" distributing power among Iraq’s Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

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