- The contestants must control territory;
- there must be a functioning government;
- each side must enjoy some foreign recognition;
- the sides should have identifiable and regular armed forces; and
- they should engage in major military operations.
At present, only the first of these five criteria is met in Iraq. Jihadists control territory in Anbar province and some areas on Baghdad's outskirts. But the jihadists do not have a functioning government anywhere in Iraq, nor do they have regular armed forces that engage in major military operations.Note though that:
The U.S. Army's definition is not universally accepted, however. Former national director of intelligence John Negroponte defined a civil war as "a complete loss of central government security control, [and] the disintegration or deterioration of the security forces of the country." J. David Singer, political science professor and former consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department, and his protégé Errol A. Henderson define civil war as "sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter's ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain." Such criteria justify the civil war label, but by Henderson and Singer's definition, Iraq has suffered seven separate civil wars in the last forty-five years.