HUFFINGTON POST
03/28/2008 02:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rumsfeld: Iraq Isn't In "A Classic Civil War At This Stage...Certainly Isn't Like Our Civil War"...

Defense Department News Briefing:

QUESTION: And the question, Mr. Secretary, after your most recent visit and this spike in violence, do you believe that Iraq is closer than ever to the brink of civil war?

RUMSFELD: "Closer than ever."

Clearly, there's sectarian violence. People are being killed. Sunnis are killing Shia; Shia are killing Sunnis. Kurds seem not to be involved.

It's unfortunate. And they need a reconciliation process. The prime minister is pushing for a reconciliation process.

There are a couple of other things that are -- oh, how would you characterize it? -- things you wish weren't happening. There's some movement of Shia out of Sunni areas and Sunnis out of Shia areas, to some extent. There undoubtedly are some people who are leaving the country and going to safer places because of the violence.

Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for your yourself. And we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something.

But it seems to me that it is not a classic civil war at this stage.

RUMSFELD: It certainly isn't like our Civil War. It isn't like the civil war in a number of other countries.

Is it a high level of sectarian violence? Yes, it is. And are people being killed? Yes. And is it unfortunate? Yes. And is the government doing basically the right things? I think so.

We're now up to 275,000 Iraqi security forces, heading toward 325,000 by the end of the year. The president has announced a reconciliation process. He's working on it. He's a serious person. He's working with some of the neighboring countries to try to encourage the Sunnis to participate. He's worked with Sistani, the leading Shia cleric in the country, and had him support a reconciliation process, as well as support of the disarming of some of the militias.

So there's a number of good things happening. There are four provinces in the country where almost all the violence is occurring, and there are 14 where there is relatively little violence.

And so, amidst all of this difficulty, the currency is fairly stable, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the people are functioning.

You'd fly over it -- you've been there -- and you see people out in the fields doing things and people driving their cars and lining up for gasoline and going about their business.

So it's a mixed picture that's difficult but, despite all of the difficulties, there are also some good trend lines that are occurring, and I think the period ahead is an important period.