.- Civil war could be on the horizon in Iraq, according to a high-ranking Catholic prelate in the country. Minorities, including Christians, would suffer most if that were the case, Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako told SIR news on Thursday.
As President Barack Obama brings the number of American troops in the Middle Eastern nation down to 50,000 by next Monday, Archbishop Sako told the Italian bishops' news agency that the future looks grim for the country's minorities.
"The war of 2003 turned Iraq upside down," said the archbishop, referring specifically to the nation's army, security, economy and national unity. He also lamented that the country has become polluted, corrupt and "intellectually impoverished" in recent years, the latter due to the loss of teachers who have been killed or fled the violence.
While granting that there is generally greater liberty in the country, he said that the movement towards democracy is "slow" due to the long-term plans of the U.S. government.
"It seems to me that the U.S. may have never wanted to resolve the problems of Iraq (by) fostering and protecting the formation of a strong government," he noted, adding that the pressure being exerted on the local government by neighboring nations is "worrying."
And with the U.S. withdrawal, he told SIR, "Iraqi fear of a civil war that could bring ethnic and religious division to the country is increasing."
He predicted that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions would each be able to gather an army, while leaving the minorities as "the scapegoats of this situation."