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Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Can violence undo Iraq progress?
Iraqi bystanders look at a bullet riddled truck
Does the continued violence in Iraq alienate moderates and make civil war more likely?

Since March 2003 Iraq has witnessed scores of devastating attacks. The latest series of suicide bombings on Thursday killed at least 26 police officers in Baghdad.

The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has also purportedly declared "war against Shias in all of Iraq" in an audio tape released on the internet.

The attacks happened only days after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said no timetable will be set for the withdrawal of US troops.

Can violence undo the progress in Iraq? Is peace or civil war the more likely outcome?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

The Shia aren't taking the bait, at least so far, so it doesn't look like a civil war
Brian, Kansas City, USA
The Shia aren't taking the bait, at least so far, so it doesn't look like a civil war is in the offing. The progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq will continue, but it looks like it will be a bloody road getting there.
Brian, Kansas City, USA

Undo? It is undone. What will emerge from the rubble will either be another Islamic state which would not be entirely welcome, or Iraq will fall into the three separate parts from which it was bolted together.
Andy, England

Whether or not one agrees with the invasion, it has to be said that the idea of withdrawing troops on account of insurgent attacks will send the message to terrorists around the world that violence is the answer.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK

The US and the UK governments were foolish to ever believe democracy could be established in Iraq. There has never been an Islamic democracy, nor will there ever be until Islam removes itself from the seventh century concepts that hold sway at present.
Chris, UK

The coalition groups should have learnt by now that violence brings on more violence and it's not the ultimate solution to prevent attacks ongoing in several parts around Iraq. Now, how long will it take them to conceive that their presence won't prevent any civil war if it's bound to happen?
Mohammed, Cairo, Egypt

I don't see how anyone can call what's going on in Iraq as progress. The reality is that we have a big mess that not only threatens Iraq itself but the whole neighbourhood.
Joao, Sacramento, USA

It will undo unless the US forces leave and let the Iraqi police and army do the remainder of the job
M Banda, Blantyre, Malawi
Yes, it will undo unless the US forces leave and let the Iraqi police and army do the remainder of the job. The US forces seem to be always taken unaware as to where the insurgents will strike next.
M Banda, Blantyre, Malawi

Violence has already managed to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the role of secular groups in Iraq. The key players now in Iraq are all Islamic, whether Sunnis or Shia. Whether the ultimate political system is achieved through a civil war or through a political process, the world should get prepared to welcome a new Islamic state.
Sarmad, Iraqi living in Los Angeles

The upsurge in violence in Iraq is a clear sign that political momentum has stalled. But should the coalition forces bear any responsibility for the turmoil? Mr Blair has shown indignation at this suggestion. The invading forces have a clear responsibility to maintain law and order, no matter how much Mr Blair denies this.
Martin Hartley, Coventry, UK

With so many people dying everyday, Mr Bush's statement that Iraq is a better place today then under Saddam Hussein, defies all credibility. The Iraqis do not deserve the turmoil the war unleashed on them.
F Akhtar, Manchester

Bush has just said that the US will not leave Afghanistan which at present is infinitely more settled than Iraq. It would not be too hard for people to assume that this means that the US presence in Afghanistan was wider than simply saving the country and fighting terrorism and may signal continued American involvement in the running of the country and the region. If this belief is overlaid on the situation in Iraq then the prospects for peace there are slim.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago

The daily struggle for survival makes the political process irrelevant
Pierre Beerkens, Netherlands
The daily struggle for survival makes the political process irrelevant. People will start to wonder where the oil revenues are going to, clearly not into the reconstruction and safeguarding of Iraq. More and more people will see the occupation as the real reason of their bad situation.
Pierre Beerkens, Netherlands

The lack of progress in Iraq is due to the Allied troops not being allowed to do their jobs for fear of being hauled before a court for human rights abuses if they cause any casualties. This is not helped by the bad publicity these soldiers get from the left wing press. The Iraq peace process is thoroughly undone but that was achieved by the British and American press and not by insurgents.
Neil, Skye, Scotland, UK

The Sunnis made a big mistake boycotting the election and resisting the democratization process. By not helping to break the insurgency and turn in militants they run the real risk that a civil war will eventually be incited. Such a war would leave them as the overwhelming victims in an unstoppable rampage of revenge and murder as repayment for decades of oppression by Saddam Hussein's regime.
Mark, USA

What is meant by progress? Since the USA put its puppet government into Iraq, thing have got worse instead of better. These attacks would never have occurred if America had supported the UN in the same way that it expects support for its own (often crazy) ideas.
Kenneth Ingle, Bielefeld, Germany

Violence is already stopping any progress
Stephen Thompson, Newcastle
These questions seem rhetorical - violence is already stopping any progress and it's obvious that we are at the beginning of a civil war. Even though this hasn't descended into a full scale civil war there is already indications of tit for tat killings and it's only a matter of time before the Shias lose patience especially with the Sunnis holding up the signing of the constitution.
Stephen Thompson, Newcastle, UK

Iraq was not the place to experiment with democracy. That should have been obvious. A "strong man" is needed to hold it together. There will be a full-blown civil war, and the country will be divided in three parts, creating more problems. The area will destabilized for decades.
Paul, USA

Yes the violence can undo the progress. Average people can and will be threatened by the violence. I believe civil war will be the outcome and it will all be because of the Bush/Blair administrations.
Jemadsen, Palo Alto

Many people believe that a civil war is already well underway. Iraq was always an artificial construction. The country is clearly divided in opinion, and physically dividing it may be the only solution. With regards to the violence, we should not forget the widely respected Lancet report, which showed that most of the 100,000 civilian casualties were due to coalition air strikes, rather than the actions of insurgents.
Steven Martin, Essex, UK

If the constitution is approved, then maybe things will get better
Joe, Madison, WI USA
It depends on what you mean by progress. Certainly security isn't getting any better, but if the constitution is approved, then maybe things will get better. If not, then the US will leave, and the country will certainly become a 'failed state' and a base for international terrorism.
Joe, Madison, WI USA

Welcome to Bush's new dawn of democracy in the Middle East.
UE, UK/Nigeria

Just exactly what progress are you referring to? The power grid? The water supply? The sewage system? The phone lives? The safety of ordinary men and women to leave their homes? It seems to me that civil war is at hand and the Bush administration just hasn't acknowledged the facts on the ground.
Martha, Richmond, Virginia, USA

I believe from my own ideology, violence cannot derail the progressive political reform going on in Iraq, The Sunnis are focusing all their attacks on the Iraq force in order to dismantle the security in Iraq so that they can overcome civilians. So what I want the US forces to do is to continue their building of Iraqi security tremendously so that they can start withdrawing their troops from Iraq. I am grateful for their job. The insurgents are losers.
Augustine, Naples, Italy

The only attribute of Iraqi society that is "progressing" is violence
Anthony, Irvine, CA USA
The only attribute of Iraqi society that is "progressing" is violence. With every new cleverly named military operation, Iraq slips more towards chaos. The war in Iraq was a bad idea and poorly planned. About the only thing that the US can do well is drop bombs.
Anthony, Irvine, CA USA

What progress? I see only a country which is a puppet state which is now on the verge of civil war. Only a unique set of circumstances and a statesman who can unite all the country can hope to bring Iraq back from the brink.
Peter Burns, Sale, England

Just look at the suffering of these people. Who in their right mind can say the West has brought progress to Iraq? Iraqi's are worse off today than they have ever been and for what? No good has come of this.
Martin, Thailand

Absolutely. This is the aim of the trouble makers in Iraq and it seems to be working. As far as I can tell the majority of violence is targeted at US-trained police and the occupying army. The progress these guys do not want is enforced Western progress.
Paul Bartlett, Milton Keynes, UK

The conflict now meets the standard academic definition of a civil war. Do you call that progress?
Paul, Massachusetts, USA

What progress - civil war or violence? We are looking at the mother of all civil wars unfolding under the occupation.
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan/Swindon

To even use the word progress in the context of this disaster in Iraq is a cruel joke. The Bush-Blair crusade has destroyed Iraq and made all of us in the west more vulnerable.
Giacomo Falconi, Stanstead, Canada

Violence is being used in Iraq to spread fear and instability
John, NJ, USA
Violence is being used in Iraq to spread fear and instability so, it is hoped, that people will eventually accept any form of government no matter how repressive or barbaric to represent them. These insurgents and terrorists are really just stupid fools who do everything they can to ruin their own life and future without even realizing that they are the cause of their own misery in the first place. If the US and allies continue their commitment to Iraq then eventually the terrorists and insurgents will ultimately fail to achieve their objectives, but at what a terrible cost. It may take years to undo the emotional damage.
John, NJ, USA

Iraqis are too smart to descend into civil war. There isn't an alarming amount of friction between the various ethnic groups or the sects. The main drive to kill people is coming from outside the country, ideologically, in the form of al-Qaeda. Al-Zarqawi cannot be doing this alone. He is evidently getting help from well-placed sympathizers in Saudi Arabia and Syria. His recent call to war against all Shias plainly signals that he is getting more and more desperate to create chaos. The inhumanity displayed by al-Zarqawi's attacks is powerful evidence that his chosen ideology is morally bankrupt, and underlines the insincerity of the twisted rationalisations that Bin Laden and his Egyptian sidekick use to play to Arab and Muslim audiences. Violence will not derail Iraq's drive toward democracy, but the toll on Iraqi citizens is as heartbreaking as it is devastating.
Chris, US

Iraq is an artificial state comprised of three former provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The only solution which will be long lasting and guarantee security would be to trisect the country into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia states, leaving the Sunnis to fight each other over the ruins of Baghdad and allowing the Kurds and the Shias to get on with nation building in the North and the South.
Tom, London

It is like having republicans and democrats over here in the US using violence to have their desires established in the government
Adam Smith, Boyertown US
I do not think that in any time Iraq can be very democratic as long as the feud between Shias and Sunni resumes. These two factions which both can be found in Iraq have been going at it since nearly the beginning of the religion and after the death of Muhammad. Though I am no expert and merely just a high school student, it is like having republicans and democrats over here in the US using violence to have their desires established in the government. Though from what I have heard it is the Shias who have caused most of the havoc because of their anti-westernization beliefs. Of course the worst thing to do is leave because that would make Iraq the mob country of the Middle East and could harbour as many terrorists than we could handle. But of course staying there will just cause more death and destruction because of our mere presence. So pretty much we are in a tight situation.
Adam Smith, Boyertown US

I think that sooner or later violence will stop, those terrorists are not irrational enough not to see when the battle is lost. The battle is lost once the constitution is approved, and once there is a long-term government, which hopefully will include all segments of society. Then I think that most of the so-called insurgents will try to find a place in the new Iraq, while the diehards, will have to be dealt with militarily. Progress is steady and the Iraqis are resilient, they will put all this behind their backs.
Andrea Baucero, Milano, Italia


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