British Gen. Calls Iraq Mini 'Civil War'

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 22, 2006; 10:45 AM

WASHINGTON -- The British deputy to the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday the country's sectarian conflict is not a full-blown civil war but could be described as a "civil war in miniature."

"In my judgment, we are not in a situation of civil war," British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Fry told reporters at the Pentagon in a video-teleconference from Baghdad. He added, "I know what a civil war looks like."

He said there is no mass migration out of Baghdad, where the sectarian violence is worst; the central government is functioning; and the country's security forces are answerable to the government.

"So what I think we have is something which is, at the very best, civil war in miniature, at the very best. But I don't think it actually even meets that definition," Fry said.

Murders and other acts of violence have declined substantially in Baghdad in recent weeks, Fry added, and most other parts of the country are relatively peaceful.

Fry is deputy commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, headed by U.S. Army Gen. George Casey, and is the senior British representative in the country. Britain has about 7,200 troops in Iraq, mostly in the southern provinces.

The role of U.S. and coalition forces now is to "hold the ring" and wait for the Iraqis to reach a political settlement that will end the sectarian strife and build the foundations for economic recovery, Fry said.

"We can continue to conduct military operations in order to separate the two sides of the sectarian conflict _ and we will do that," he said. "But that of itself does not bring about a solution. What brings about a solution is a process of reconciliation which only the Iraqis can conduct _ and they are in the process of conducting that now."

Fry said it was important that the conflict not be described as "civil war."

"It is inflammatory language," he said. "It is implying that the situation is worse than it is. It therefore encourages _ among other things _ adventurous media reporting" and "could encourage a certain degree of despondency in the political constituencies of both of our countries. But above all, I simply don't think it's an accurate statement of the situation that we're currently involved in."

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