Iraq is sliding toward civil war, and is likely to divide
eventually along ethnic lines, Britain's outgoing ambassador to the
country warned in a memo to Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to
a news report yesterday.
William Patey, who left his diplomatic post in Baghdad last
week, said in the confidential report that the situation in Iraq
could remain volatile for the next decade, BBC said.
The diplomat sent the memo to Blair, Foreign Secretary Margaret
Beckett and other leading legislators and military commanders, BBC
Britain's Foreign Office said it was department policy not to
comment on leaked documents, but acknowledged that Patey had set
out similar views in a radio interview last week.
"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," BBC
quoted Patey's memo as saying.
"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
Patey's diplomatic cable claims that Iraq's "position is not
hopeless," but warns that the country is likely to remain "messy
and difficult" for the next five to 10 years, BBC said.
He also warned that to avoid a descent into civil war, there
must be greater effort directed at policing militia groups,
including the Mahdi Army.
"Preventing the Jaish al Mahdi from developing into a state
within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a
priority," Patey's memo said, according to BBC.
In an interview with BBC radio's "Today" program last week,
Patey said there was evidence of police collusion with death squads
and militias, and that Iraqis had lost all confidence in law
But the Foreign Office said Patey also had acknowledged at the
time that he did not feel any sense "of hopelessness or despair"
about the future of Iraq, and that he believed the Iraqi government
was capable of improving conditions.
"Everyday the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to manage
their own security is growing," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said,
on condition of anonymity in line with policy.
She said the handover last month of the southern Muthana
Province from British troops to Iraqi forces was "the beginning of
a process which will culminate in the Iraqis taking full command of
their own destiny."
Officials at Britain's Defense Ministry have said the handovers
of two further provinces are likely to take place within
However, BBC said Patey's memo cautioned against making any
swift repatriation of troops, stressing that talk of any early exit
from Iraq would weaken the position of coalition soldiers who
Patey's concerns echo the assessment of former Ambassador to
Iraq Sir Jeremy Greenstock, London's representative in Baghdad
(China Daily August 4, 2006)