THE END OF IRAQ?….Well, this is bad news:

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

….The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they’ve long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga ? literally, “those who face death” ? told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.

Their strategy mirrors that of Shiite Muslim parties in southern Iraq, which have stocked Iraqi army and police units with members of their own militias and have maintained a separate militia presence throughout Iraq’s central and southern provinces. The militias now are illegal under Iraqi law but operate openly in many areas. Peshmerga leaders said in interviews that they expected the Shiites to create a semi-autonomous and then independent state in the south as they would do in the north.

This is from Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder, who’s been reporting on ethnic fragmentation in the Iraqi military for quite a while. It’s worth noting that Lasseter’s reporting has been pretty pessimistic on this score for some time, which could be because he’s better informed on these issues than most others, or just because he’s more pessimistic. Who knows? But he’s a good reporter, and his pieces from Iraq are data points that are worth taking seriously.

Juan Cole has more.

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