1 Jan. Los Angeles Times - Iraqi Civil War? Some Experts Say It's Arrived.

In a speech delivered as Iraqis prepared to go to the polls, President Bush said he didn't believe a civil war would break out in the country. But some observers believe it has already begun a quiet and deadly struggle whose battle lines were thrown into sharp relief by the highly polarized vote results.

On any given day, a group of Shiite police might be hit in a Sunni suicide attack or ambush. A militiaman in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security services might arrest, torture and kill a suspected Sunni insurgent. Or a Kurdish official in the new government might be gunned down between home and office.

Unless the assassination target is prominent, or the number of victims rises to at least the high single digits, such events barely rate a mention in Western news reports. Yet the most reliable estimates are that about 1,000 Iraqis have been dying each month, most of them killed by fellow Iraqis.

The term "civil war" conjures images of armies massed against each other, and ultimately the breakup of a state a far cry from the democratic paradigm the U.S. government meant to achieve in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein 2 1/2 years ago.

Iraqi politicians and leaders routinely extol the country's unity and its aversion to civil war. Last week, Abbas Bayati, an official of the Shiite-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said it would never happen, because the country's religious leaders would not permit it.

Other experts inside and outside Iraq are less sure...