WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The Iraq war "has become a broad struggle for sectarian and ethnic control of political and economic space," a U.S. military analyst said Monday.
"Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions increasingly organize to provide local security while seeking to push other factions out of areas where they have the majority," Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said in a statement.
"The map of sectarian and ethnic violence is far broader than the major incidents of violence reported by the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) and Iraqi government," Cordesman said. The United Nations "reported that 34,452 Iraqi civilians died in 2006. Groups like Iraq Body Count reported that a total of roughly 58,000 Iraqis civilians died since 2003," he said.
"Other forms of 'cleansing' have become at least as important as major overt acts of violence," Cordesman said. "Shiites and Sunnis, and Arabs and Kurds, seek to dominate the other side or push the weaker side out of areas where they have the majority or have superior power."
"These forms of 'soft' ethnic cleansing include threats, physical intimidation, blackmail, seizure of property, raids on homes and businesses, use of checkpoints to push other factions out, kidnappings and extortion, misuse of government offices and police, and disappearances. The U.N. estimated that at the end of 2006 there were 1.7 million internally displaced Iraqis," Cordesman said