The crossing of the US 4th Stryker Brigade and 2nd Infantry Division from Iraq into Kuwait Thursday morning, Aug. 19, ended America's combat involvement in the seven and-a-half year Iraq war. debkafile's military and Baghdad sources note that, for Washington, the war which cost 4,400 American lives and $1 trillion – is over, as per US President Barack Obama's pledge. But for Iraq, it is just beginning: At least two civil conflicts are at boiling point – Sunni-Shiite strife and hostilities between the two Muslim factions and the Kurds of the North – and Iran's followers stand ready to seize Iraq's oil-rich South potentially sparking yet another world conflagration.
The political vacuum in Baghdad created by Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to step down or join a unity government is unsustainable and the cause of a rising spiral of violence. Neither of the two leading Iraqi parties which emerged from the general election earlier this year – Maliki's State of Law Party and ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya Party – is seen capable of commanding a parliamentary majority any time this year.
Dropping out of negotiations for joining Allawi in a coalition government, the transitional prime minister has turned his attention to preparations for a Shiite war against the Sunnis to be launched as soon as the Americans are gone. He has lined up senior Shiite commanders in the Iraqi Army who are willing to lead an all-out offensive against the Sunnis in Baghdad and central and western Iraq. According to US intelligence, they are preparing to capture large parts of Baghdad as well as Habaniya, Ramadi, Tikrit, Falluja and sections of Anbar Province, in order to achieve two objectives.
One is to defeat Sunni forces, forcing them to accept their loss of political influence and bow to his conditions, or else face more casualties, the loss of more territory in the cities and more debacles.
The second is to crush the power bases the Saudis are building in Iraq at great expense.
While the Saudis and the Syrians are spending money to buy off Maliki's supporters, he plans to physically destroy the Sunni power centers in which they are investing.
His plans could ignite a Shiite-Sunni war lasting from one to two years up to late 2012 or early 2013. At least one to one-and-a-half million Iraqi Sunnis will be put to flight and flood neighboring Jordan which has neither the resources not the utilities to support that many refugees.
A second Iraqi community, the Kurds of the north, is in the midst of war preparations out of a bitter sense of betrayal by Washington.
They are furious over America quitting the country without solving the critical issue of Kirkuk and its oilfields. Calculating that the Shiites and Sunnis will be caught up in their own war and have no soldiers to spare for stopping them, the Kurds have lined up this strategic northern city for capture as soon as September.
They also plan to exploit the anticipated armed Sunni-Shiite feud to drive south and grab parts of central Iraq up to a line some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad.
Holding such towns as Saghir, Chay Khanah, Qarah Tappah, Muhsin Aziz and As-Sadiyah would be the key to Kurdish control of the eastern provinces bordering on Iran. This would give them the strategic depth for defending Kirkuk and its oil fields and bring them to the edges of the northern belt of cities hinging on Baquba and Balad which protect Baghdad from invasion from the north.
Their Peshmerga is a highly-trained and skilled military force which the Kurds believe neither the Shiites nor the Sunnis can overcome.
Tehran is also eyeing rich spoils in Iraq's post-American era.
The networks in Iraq run by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the MOIS, and the Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades have joined forces with their Iraqi allies to take over the southern oilfields centering on the city of Basra, which account for about 60 percent of the country's oil output.
This would be Iran's payback for the energy sanctions President Barack Obama imposed in July.
Iran also covets the two holiest cities of the world Shiite movement, Karbala and Najaf.
The ayatollahs in Tehran are planning a double coup in Iraq – possession of Iraq's oil riches plus command of its two most treasured religious sites.