Keeping Iraqis various political (many), ethnic (Kurd and Arab), religious (Sunni, Shia and Christian) and tribal (over 150) groups from degenerating into a bloody civil war won't be easy. But it's been done before. In the early 1920s, when Britain took over from the Turks in what is now Iraq, you had the same cast of characters. Even then, the Sunnis were seen as the oppressor, as they tended to hold most of the jobs in the army, police and civil service that ran the area for the Turkish Ottoman empire. The British used a combination of bribes, troops, diplomacy and airpower to calm things down and set up an Iraqi government. American Civil Affairs troops (who train with Army Special Forces) have studied the situation and plan to use what worked for the British 70 years ago. In addition, U.S. Civil Affairs troops will have media tools unavailable to the British back then (when radio broadcasting was just being introduced.) Not all Iraqis want to fight over political differences, which is one reason Saddam has been able to control the country for three decades.
If Iraq is invaded, when will it happen? The most immediate warning sign would be thousands of army and marine troops being flown to Kuwait to man the combat equipment that is stored there. Equipment and supplies have been flowing into the Persian Gulf for over a month now.
Saddam is thought to be planning the use of guerilla warfare and civilian demonstrations to confront a U.S. attack. Saddam has several hundred thousand secret police and armed civilian loyalists he could order to resist individually. Some of these people would take their AK-47 and snipe at American troops, but most would realize that resistance is suicidal and run for cover. But it increasingly looks like their won't be an attack. Instead, Saddam's Sunni Moslem supporters (about 20 percent of the population) may finally get rid of Saddam and call in American troops to protect themselves from the wrath of the Kurds and Shiites. The Sunnis have starved, impoverished, killed and imprisoned the Kurds and Shiites for several decades and the victims are eager for revenge. If it comes to an American invasion, the Sunnis are increasingly aware that they will be at great risk in the disorder that follows the collapse of Saddam's military and government. Recent announcements by Kurdish and Shiite groups that they would not obey an American military government only add to the Sunni fears. The American psychological warfare campaign against Iraq has been going on for months and reports from inside the country indicate it's having an impact. The Saddam loyalists are increasingly nervous and looking to make deals with the opposition.
The Iraqi opposition groups meeting in London extended their discussions for a day because of disputes over who should be on the advisory committee that will assist in forming a post Saddam government. The opposition groups did agree that the future of Iraq would have to be decided by a vote of all the Iraqi people.