Historians Offer Dismal Iraq Forecast





To historians and others pondering Iraq, forecasting a final outcome for that sad land is like finding your way through one of its "shamal" sandstorms. You may not know where you're headed, but you know it's going to be dark.

The Middle East historian David Fromkin sees a breakup of the jerry-built nation. Phebe Marr, doyenne of Iraq scholars, sees "distrust and suspicion" too deep to overcome. "Bleak," concludes Baghdad University's Saad al-Hadithi.

"At the moment," said the British historian Niall Ferguson, "a happy ending has a 1-in-100 look about it."

In interviews with The Associated Press, few experts see much chance that President Bush's plan to add 21,500 troops to the U.S. force in Baghdad and western Iraq will suppress either the anti-U.S. insurgency or the bloody underground warfare between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or induce a political settlement among the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.

The Senate this week is expected to begin action on a nonbinding resolution repudiating the Bush troop buildup. The measure was introduced by the Democratic-majority but has attracted some Republican support.

Mohamed el-Sayed Said, of Cairo's al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said he expects the growing U.S. political opposition to the war will lead at some point to a redeployment of American troops to northern Iraq's Kurdistan and to elsewhere in the Gulf region.

After that, said this Arab scholar, "events will take their own course, which is basically generalized civil war."



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