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Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PARTITIONING IRAQ....The London Times says the Baker Commission is planning to recommend a "soft partition" of Iraq:

The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls cutting and running or staying the course.

....His group will not advise partition, but is believed to favour a division of the country that will devolve power and security to the regions, leaving a skeletal national government in Baghdad in charge of foreign affairs, border protection and the distribution of oil revenue.

Will it work? Even Leslie Gelb, a longtime proponent of this idea, is pessimistic. "Everything is a long shot at this point," he says.

Juan Cole is more emphatic: "This is a very bad idea for so many reasons it would take me forever to list them all." I'm inclined to agree. He lists a few of the reasons here.

Kevin Drum 1:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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It is certainly a fine mess they have made in Mesopotamia, isn't it?

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 8, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen,

Not to quibble, but I believe that you should spell that with two esses.

With apologies to Jon Stewart.

Posted by: stupid git on October 8, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I heard another good reason against this plan (Senator Biden has also proposed it, right?). Barbara Bodine was moderating a panel at MIT last week featuring George Packer and Ram Chandrasekaran and she made the observation that the area known today as Iraq has not been politically separated in something like 1000 years - from the caliphate of Baghdad to the Ottoman Empire to 20th century monarchy and nationalism (remember Iraqi nationalism is, or was, among the most powerful voices of nationalism in the Middle East) it simply isn't true that Iraq has a long history of living in 3 separate regions divided on ethnicity or sectarianism as some are thinking. There's no reason to believe that a confederation of Iraqi states with a skeletal central government will make things better - it is not a tradition that Iraq is used to. In fact it would only cement the destruction of Iraq once and for all and probably lead to generations of sectarian and ethnic warfare both as a result of the Iraqis themselves and as a result of proxy campaigns that are bound to be waged by regional powers Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

With a relatively well educated population in Iraq I still think that some kind of democracy with strong minority protections and sharing of oil wealth has to be the long-term peaceful solution. All other solutions will just punt the hard work of making peace down a couple years. This is of course what Bush is going to do so all this talk is meaningless anyway, but Bush might get the idea that partitioning Iraq is just the kind of 'bold, visionary leadership' needed to solve this nightmarish problem he has created (he has a real penchant for any idea that looks 'bold', no?) and it will be offered by James Baker...and so he just might take it seriously and make his damage in the region permanent before we can even hope to fix his mess.

Posted by: reader on October 8, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

First line in George Jr.'s forthcoming book:

Iraq in tres partes divisa est.

Posted by: Thaumaturgist on October 8, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Apologies - I think his name is Rajiv Chandrasekaran (the Post reporter who wrote "Life in the Emerald City"). It was, as you can imagine, a fantastic panel but very, very demoralising.

Posted by: reader on October 8, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think they could call it the Nigerian (or should it be the Biafran?) solution.

Come on, everyone knows this entire line of thinking is moronic for exactly the same reason it failed in Nigeria. The guys who land up with the oil will, soon enough, start to wonder why they're giving it up to the others. Even with a fair division of spoils, they will wonder this, and the division will, of course, not be fair.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on October 8, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

It certainly seems like a bad idea (although I haven't yet heard of any other less-bad ideas coming out of the administration), but I think a more relevant question is, will Cheney, Rove, Rummy, and Bush go for it?

And here's where I get worried, 'cuz none of Juan Cole's points seem likely to deter them.

The major points, that it would destabilize the region in a number of ways, might actually be seen by them as a virtue. They really do seem to think that "bold" moves that "shake up" existing orders are a good thing -- something "those people need."

High oil prices likewise are a good thing, for the heavily petroleum-connected cabal that runs the administration. Look how upset they were during the gas-price run-up, and how hard they worked to ease the burden on the middle-class consumer.

And the opinion of Arab governments? In an administration more thoroughly saturated with Likudniks than any Republican regime in history? Give me a break...

Besides, it will create the ILLUSION of something being done, and that should be enough to get them through the next couple of years. Then it's someone else's problem.

Posted by: bleh on October 8, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

So what IS the solution?

The fact that we have created a "fine mess" in Iraq doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fix it. It's easy to find fault with every suggested solution, not so easy to come up with one.

Posted by: bobinnv on October 8, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"...leaving a skeletal national government in Baghdad in charge of blah, blah, and the distribution of oil revenue."

Heh. Good luck with all that

Posted by: Soviet Canuckastani on October 8, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's very easy to throw stones at this idea. The key issue is the one raised above--what courses are there that are any better?

Cole argues that partition is likely to lead to wars between the sections. The problem with this as a critique is that there are already wars going on between the sections. The war is happeneing every day in Baghdad and Kirkuk and other bordering areas.

He claims Turkey won't stand for it, but again, the Kurds already have a region every bit as autonomous as any federal proposal. So whatever they supposedly can't accept is already the situation on the ground.

I'm not sure if this is a good idea, but I see it as getting ahead of the curve and trying to shape things at least. The country is moving (fairly quickly) towards 3 ethnically cleansed areas. The Kurds already have autonomy and won't give it up without a fight, so the question is what to do with the Shia and the Sunni. I think some sort of federalism is as good as any other idea. The other options are restoring a minority dictatorship by the Sunni, or having a Shia dominated government controlling both regions. Not sure why this is supposed to produce a better outcome for the Sunni (or for Saudi Arabia) than a federal system (or eventual partition.)

Posted by: Doug T on October 8, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK


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Posted by: pp on October 8, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Baker commission's band-aid.

Divide Iraq and leaving a skeletal government in Baghdad in charge of foreign affairs, border protection and the distribution of oil revenue.

A save that oil plan.

Because you know that Baker is planning on keeping those billion dollar military bases in order to secure the US economic security interest.

The new meme from Repugs of late has been to day "we can't let the terrorist control the oilfields" And I'm sure the definition of a "Iraqi terrorist" is anyone in Iraq that disagrees with the attributes and all the fine print of Western oil contracts.

I know that Iraqis won't buy into any of this force, old style Indian Reservation roundup - and it will only make Bin Laden look that much more like a Mideast prophet about those nasty Western infidels.

The choice is instability or more instability.

This is a plan in which Baker's and his so-called bi-partisan brood will announce that such re-organization requires many, many more years in Iraq - but other then a military draft, there is insufficient US manpower to stay this last ditch effort to change the course.

Carl Levin is right, it time to find a date, and let the Iraqis define the remain war in Iraq.

Posted by: Cheryl on October 8, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Notice how none of these explanations for why we should leave or allow partition ever really directly address what's good for the United States?

For a guy who says there are 'so many reasons' to rebut the partition of Iraq that 'it would take forever' to list them all, he only provides two (#3 is basically just a restatement of #1) superficial arguments which don't strike me as especially compelling.

#1. First he analogizes the partition to the breakup of the Soviet Union (hey, that didn't work so therefore this won't). This passes for an argument? Okay, fine: Pakistan and East Pakistan were partitions from India, and that worked and helped end the religion-based violence. Also, East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan and became Bangladesh - and that worked too.

He also says Saudi Arabia and Turkey wouldn't go for it. Well, Turkey didn't exactly support our invasion to begin with, so now we're going to pretend we care what Turkey thinks? Heck, the United Nations opposed our invasion, as did most of our closest allies. We don't care what they think either? That's awfully convenient cherry picking of international opinions.

As for Saudi Arabia, it's one of the most repressive, backwards, and corrupt governments on the planet and the Bush administration actually talked of invading Saudi Arabia in 'Phase 2' of the campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East. 14 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Osama Bin Laden is hugely popular in Saudi Arabia. Do we really care what they think? Or more precisely, SHOULD we care what they think? This isn't a facile dismissal, but a legitimate challenge to the unusually strong coddling of a regime that is worthless in every possible regard, and whose populace generally wishes us ill.

Finally, this argument presumes the United States would be driving the decision on whether to partition Iraq based on regional concerns (otherwise why would the opinions of our regional allies matter?)

#2 This argument contradicts the former by specifically stating that the United States cannot impose its will on Iraq to partition the country. That's funny, haven't we pretty much imposed ourselves

His argument is that a minority of the Iraqi parliament is on record as opposing partition. How old is that information, exactly? From this he extrapolates out of thin air that a slim majority of Iraqis will therefore oppose partitioning the country (and apparently its impossible that opponents of partition will ever change their mind). That's interesting; usually one presumes that a minority isn't exactly in the driving seat for getting its way.

#3 a partion would create an inequitable division of petroleum resources (the oil is in Kurdish and Shia areas, not Sunni) and therefore lead to wars between the factions.

But we're already seeing precisely that: bloodshed between Sunni and Shia. Our presence may be delaying a civil war, but it doesn't appear that we have enough troops to actually prevent one from taking place. This is going to come to a head one way or another; the question is whether or not we want to continue to lose troops in a futile delaying action. Our troops are basically a lightning rod - a common enemy that both Sunni and Shia (to a lesser degree) are happy to target and kill when they're not killing each other.

Will Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran get pulled into wider wars? Regional instability is unavoidable - that's the real "Foreigner's Gift", not Democracy in the region. Unfortunately, this administration is entirely and in every way incapable of dealing with reality; like Hitler in his bunker, Bush is convinced the war in winnable.

Except the Republican strategy isn't to win the war. If they were serious about winning the war, they would increase our troop strength in Iraq. But in order to do that, they'd have to reinstate the draft. But that would create a political backlash, so we're stuck with too few troops to win the war.

Basically this means the GOP is more concerned about their electoral prospects than winning the war. Hard to believe? Well, the GOP has knowingly enabled a child predator to haunt the halls of congress - for perhaps longer than a decade - rather than risk losing a single seat. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that the GOP is willing to lose this war (since the loss will come after Bush is out of office and can be blamed on Democrats) rather than lose their majority. Oh, and having our military bled nearly to death in the process is apparently an acceptable loss for their political victory.

Posted by: Augustus on October 8, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

ahhhh, baker need look no further than America's first continental congress to know that an emasculated central government with little or no power, counting on consensus from strong, most autonomous entities is a completly unworkable idea for running a nation.

But then again, we all know that solving the problem or developing a real course of action is not what baker is charged with doing. Baker's charge form poppy-to-the-rescue-of-the-idiot-son-AGAIN is to create distractions, and delay the only remianing decision that changes the dynamics on the ground - withdraw in defeat just like Vietnam while civil war rages, until the boy king is out of office and it becomes a democrat's problem to blame defeat on.

Posted by: pluege on October 8, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

WeirdBaker was on ABC with George Steph Baker said that partitioning could not work, How do you partition the major cities which are mixed. He said civil war would certainly result.

He said that the national government must assert itself.

Good luck with that.

Posted by: Keith G on October 8, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Keith G - what are you doing up so early? :)

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 8, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm inclined to agree.

but you want the US to pull out on some firm schedule and risk a civil war that will partition the country violently at great cost and then possibly reunite it under some kind of military/theocratic dictatorship.

A federalist solution like Switzerland or a fenced partition like Cyprus and Korea would be better than that.

Iraq only exists as a nation because of the administrativ decisions of previous empires (British, French, Ottoman, Byzantine, ... .) If Iraqi nationalism is strong enough, a federal solution will survive; otherwise it will produce dissolution like Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and USSR.

Posted by: papago on October 8, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Simply, if the regions are effectively autonomous, their foreign policies will be effectively autonomous as well, so 'national' government at Baghdad trying to create a unified external approach for the whole will instantly be in conflict with all three parts.

If they can't agree on who they are in the first place, they'll never agree on how they want others to see them.

Posted by: cld on October 8, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Czech Republic - Slovakia disolution doesn't belong on that list. They shook hands, parted company and not a shot was fired. They are still trading partners and no annimosity from either country toward the other.

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 8, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

He said that the national government must assert itself.

Good luck with that.

Yeah, that solution does have the one small problem that there IS no national government in anything but name.

It's turning out just like Afghanistan. The "national government" is coming to mean the "mayoralty of the capital city," with the majority of the power in the country wielded by factional and regional warlords. The US is becoming less and less interested, and probably soon will begin to drift away, leaving an immense amount of wreckage in its wake and no foundation for reconstruction. (Lots of tax dollars funneled to politically connected US companies, of course, but nothing lasting.)

Seems to me like a necessary condition of a long-term political solution is the involvement of the other countries in the region, since they're the only ones with the necessary cultural contacts and political/economic/military muscle. Their involvement depends in turn on their assessments of whether a stable Iraq or an unstable one (ripe for the picking, but also a source of instability) is in their interests.

If THAT's the case, then the best the US can do is attempt to be a broker and organizer. You want a strategy? There's one: start working with other countries toward a mutually acceptable political resolution, recognizing that the best we're going to be able to get out of it is a messy, stinky compromise.

Ah, but that would require diplomacy and patience, not cowboy militarism. And we've burned a lot of bridges in that part of the world recently. And it would take a long time, and it would be boring.

I don't think the administration is interested in finding a feasible solution. I think the necessary mindset is alien to them. I think they still harbor fantasies of "controlling" the situation, or at least the oil fields, even as they struggle to get out of the quicksand they've blundered into. I think it's going to devolve as Afghanistan is devolving, and they're going to turn -- slowly or quickly, depending on the domestic political calendar -- to something that plays better on CNN, like bombing Iran or North Korea.

And without any serious interest by the administration, all the theorizing about how to solve the problem is just wasted electrons.

Posted by: bleh on October 8, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

To quote myself, If they can't agree on who they are in the first place, they'll never agree on how they want others to see them.

This is really the same problem we have in the US with Republicans.

Perhaps it's time to start considering partition for the US. Rope off some nice stupid region where Republicans can be absolutely brain fucked to their hearts content.

Posted by: cld on October 8, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

A few thoughts (I am typing on a mobile PDA, so must be brief): Iraq as it exists, is the result of the Sykes-Picot treaty after WWI, so there is a deep moral lesson abut the dangers of imperialism in all this. Next, James Baker is deeply conflicted in this, as he sits on the Carlyle Group - a traitorous group of greedy war-mongers. Baker should be in prison for war-profiteering if the Dems had any balls at all. Last, Al Franken proposed a "soft partition" of Iraq months ago. I guess liberals just are quicker thnkers than neocons....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on October 8, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Juan Cole, Finally, I just don't believe that the Arab and Muslim worlds would ever forgive the US for breaking up Iraq,

Yet Iraq as a whole simply isn't relevent. Every Arab will tell you at the drop of a pin how it was cobbled together for the convenience of external empires without asking the people what they thought of it. Objecting to it breaking up sounds like crocodile tears.

A federal arrangement of resource-sharing between the three bodies is practical, but beyond that Iraq as an autonomous entity is historically untenable.

The powers within the sunnis and shiites feel threatened by autonomy because they would be left with no one to fight --they've achieved the positions they have through violence and would be faced now with mere civic responsibility.

Posted by: cld on October 8, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Global, I am on a wierd sched. Sleep is usu. 1-8, but last night I got busy kitten proofing my place before those two high energy girls move in tomorrow. Late night.

A bunch of ornamental glass and rare objects got packed away.

Posted by: Keith G on October 8, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I am on a grad-school schedule myself, so I have some wierd quad-shot espresso hours myself.

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 8, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta go watch the Chiefs - later all.

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 8, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that partition is now the least-worst option, because at this point the only two realistic endpoints are an oppressive, authoritarian pro-Iranian government, or ethnic cleansing and chaos leading to 3 autonomous regions. Handling the latter solution with a minimum of chaos might be the best way out.

But I'm a cynic.

Posted by: ajl on October 8, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, hmmm, a "soft partition" of Iraq?

Does soft support mean - we tell to them to divide Iraq and then leave?

Posted by: Cheryl on October 8, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Definition of hubris:

The creation of the country of Iraq.
The creation of Israel out of Palestinian lands without JUST compensation.
The partitioning of Iraq.

And you STILL wonder why they hate you?

Oh wait...
Let's add that to the list.

Definition of hubris:

The creation of the country of Iraq.
The creation of Israel out of Palestinian lands without JUST compensation.
The partitioning of Iraq.
STILL wondering why they hate you.

Posted by: koreyel on October 8, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

With all due respect to Juan Cole, breaking up "Iraq" would be simply putting it back to where the Brits found it after WWI; back into the groups of hyperreligious tribes that inhabited that unhappy land.

If you can't abide that, don't count on ever having those folks settle into a democracy without it being an Islamic state.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on October 8, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Someone has to come up with a better idea then the old "Stay the Course" and "Hard Work". The great Republican party of Lincoln and Reagan has become the party of "cuddle and rum".

Posted by: American Idiot on October 8, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hate to argue with Juan (who seems to be the most consistent and credible source of Iraq news/analysis this country has), but the question isn't "will breaking up Iraq cause harm", it's "Is the Iraq breakup inevitable, and if so, would it be better to accept than to demonstrate our lack of influence by fighting it?"

Also I have to take issue with his assertion that the middle east will never forgive us for breaking up Iraq for the same reason: the damage has already been done. Iraq is not a single nation and never has been.

Posted by: dscowboy on October 8, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Um, shouldn't the Iraqis themselves be deciding this?

Oh yeah, I forgot: "benevolent empire" and all that.

Posted by: chuck on October 8, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cole's analysis is cogent but his advice often seems similar to Bush's: stay the course except with a few more troops and hope something better emerges. Problem is there doesn't seem to be any sign of anything better emerging; just the opposite.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 8, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Why are we letting Bush dictate the terms of the debate and making us feel guilty for the mess he created in Iraq? We should leave Iraq tomorrow and embark on a national emergency effort to become energy-independent (see Apollo Alliance). Fuck their oil. This argument that Iraq will descend into civil war is silly, since it already is in a civil war. Maybe a full blown civil war is what is needed to bring long-term stability to the country. That is what it took in this country.

I say have a race to see which platoon can pack their gear and get out of Iraq the quickest. Cut and run, my ass. Cut and sprint. Fuck Iraq, fuck Bush and fuck this phony guilt trip shit. That would be the best thing for our country and for Iraq (or whatever they call it when the smoke clears). Then, let's get the impeeachment hearings started.

Posted by: Dick Wiggler on October 8, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

With all due respect to Juan Cole, breaking up "Iraq" would be simply putting it back to where the Brits found it after WWI

Does that have any kind of analogy to today? I doubt very much that it does.

What matters is getting our people out alive. The Iraqis have to grow up and figure out how to get along.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 8, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

"With all due respect to Juan Cole, breaking up "Iraq" would be simply putting it back to where the Brits found it after WWI; back into the groups of hyperreligious tribes that inhabited that unhappy land."

There is some truth in that, in that the Brits essentially cobbled together the nation of "Iraq" from Ottoman Turkish regions that were ethnic rivals never intended to be united as a nation. Some people such as Arnold Wilson, Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia were had idealistic ideas, but most of the British cartographers had much baser motives-- by creating "Iraq," they would pit the differing ethnic and sectarian groups against each other, divide-and-rule style, so that the British could access the oil. This approach worked in India, but it failed disastrously for the Brits in other places where the native forces defeated the British military-- Afghanistan, Egypt, Buenos Aires ( http://tinyurl.com/olaq5 ), and indeed in Iraq. There was a very ugly insurrection against British rule in Iraq in the 1920's mostly by Shiites and Kurds, which the Brits (led by that little patsy Arthur Harris in his pre-Dresden days) decided to hit with civilian terror bombing, a decade before Guernica. (It's controversial whether or not poison gas was used in Iraq though it was suggested on many an occasion-- thousands of Iraqis were mass-murdered by Harris's bombs in any case.) In any case, the British failed to put down the uprising-- especially by the Kurds, who in fact were basically resisting British rule up to and until Britain's final defeat in 1958. However, those lines on the map still stand, and we're paying the price for it.

As far as practically splitting up Iraq-- I'm not sure how we'd do it. Baghdad and Kirkuk are ethnically mixed cities, and there are numerous Turkomen in Kirkuk as well as Arabs and Kurds. Maybe the answer is to make them international cities of some sort, but I don't have an easy solution otherwise.

Posted by: Wes on October 8, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

"With all due respect to Juan Cole, breaking up "Iraq" would be simply putting it back to where the Brits found it after WWI; back into the groups of hyperreligious tribes that inhabited that unhappy land."

It is one thing to say that something is a good idea. It is an entirely different question whether WE can do it. Deposing Saddam Hussein and turning Iraq into a democracy was a good idea, too. But it was not something that we were capable of doing.

There isn't really anything the US is capable of doing in Iraq anymore. The frantic reforms we're pushing now will go down in history like the agrarian land reforms we pushed on South Vietnam in the early '70s: quaint footnotes.

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Posted by: mmf铃声 on October 8, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the Turks and Iranians would be thrilled to see an oil rich, quasi-indepedent Kurdish nation on their borders. Jesus Murphy.

Posted by: Soviet Canuckastani on October 9, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

augustus, the partition of India into India and Pakistan didn't exactly help "resolve" bloodshed. It LED to unimaginable bloodshed and the largest population transfer in human history. Within a matter of months 17 million people picked up and left for the other side of the border. And the end result? Economic devastation of East Bengal and Punjab, military dictatorship in Pakistan, three wars, religious chauvinism in Pakistan AND India, a festering conflict over Kashmir that continually threatens to break out into nuclear war...

The point is that partitioning countries RARELY works. It is often a tool to buy short-term stability but it costs big time in long-term stability. And it often fails to advance short-term stability, either.

I'll refer you guys to an interview from Peace Magazine regarding the problems with partitioning countries - I highly urge you all read it.


As for Iraq, it isn't a totally artificial nation - Baghdad and Basra provinces were long known as the "Iraq" region during Ottoman times. Mosul was typically linked with Anatolia and considered part of Greater Syria, but it's wrong to claim that Mosul was "Kurdish" - it had a large Kurdish population but it was majority Sunni Arab with a large population of Assyrians and Turks as well.

In all honesty, I don't know if it is possible to keep the Kurds from breaking away - they seem dead set on it and the rest of the Iraqi Arabs seem to have their minds preoccupied with their internal Sunni/Shia struggle to even care much even more.

But if a Kurdish secession is potentially bad but unavoidable, an Arab bifurcation is both almost certain-to-be disastrous AND avoidable. LOTS of countries have undergone civil wars and most ended it with the country in one piece. So long as the international community refuses to recognize a secession, chances are it will not happen. There may be a bloody civil war, but there's no reason to believe that will inevitably lead to two successor states.

There doesn't seem to be much genuine sentiment for splitting the Arab Shia areas off from the Arab Sunni areas; most Shia parties oppose this; only the SCIRI backs it because they plan to use it as a personal fief.

Posted by: Andrew on October 9, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Governor Tarkin: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.
General Tagge: But that's impossible. How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?
Governor Tarkin: The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

Posted by: Aaron on October 9, 2006 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly what they need is some type of death star...

Seriously though, if the sunni's and shiite's are determine to create an "islamic state" and have already put that in the Iraqi constitution, why exactly is it our obligation to force the Kurds to be part of that? especially when theyve had their own functioning democracy in northern Iraq for 15 years now?
I think thats for s--t.
I support Kurdish partition.
I think we should support remote area basing of US military forces.- keep US military bases in the kurdish region protecting Kurdish autonomy, but not acting as a police force. In exchange we would demand certain human rights gaurantees- respect for the turkman, and arab population remaining. streghtening of their democracy. enforceing the rule of law. and of course preventint the area from being used as a terrorist safe haven against turkey, iran and the rest of Iraq.
and if Turkey and SA dont like it- well tough.
we have to stand up for whats right, and throwing the kurds into the meatgrinder of an Iraqi civil war isnt part of that.

Posted by: Aaron on October 9, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

Assuming the Kurds get their dream, a state of their own in the north of Iraq, they have access to a lot of oil in the Kirkuk region.

How do they export that oil to paying customers? This has puzzled me for some time. None of their neighbours (Iran, Turkey and Syria) like them very much because of the Kurdish terrorist organisations that have operated from the "Kurdistan" heartland and which claim largish chunks of the three aforementioned countries as part of "Greater Kurdistan". Right now Kurdish oil flows south and is exported as Iraqi oil through Basra. If partition occurs the Sunni/Shia states to their south then control their oil pipelines and can cut them off at will, or force them into some very expensive trade deals which makes the financial returns on their resources much less attractive.

Posted by: Robert Sneddon on October 9, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

test post

Posted by: American Hawk on October 9, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

"What matters is getting our people out alive. The Iraqis have to grow up and figure out how to get along."

If your only concern is the avoidance of casualties, better to not have an army at all.

Besides, what says that a partition plan would include the removal of our troops? Some things such a plan would have to consider:

- Division on the Iraqi army and police. The Sunnis won't get many.

- Governance of Bagdad. Unless we mean to encourage ethnic cleansing as part of our solution.

- Will we retain a civilian presence? Who will safeguard them?

- Will we retain troops in the Kurdish and Shiite areas? What if they request it?

- Evacuation of Balad, our primary logistics base.

- What troops will we station elsewhere in the region and where?

- How do we prevent Iran and Syria from taking advantage of the situation?

- What happens once the Sunni area is filled with outside advisors, volunteers, and jihadists?

- What if the Shiites or Kurds need our assistance? Will we engage once again?

- What do we do with refugees from areas where we were based? Move them? Take them with us?

The whole thing comes down to what our promises are worth, both now and after a partition scheme is implemented. We solemnly promised South Vietnam we'd help them, too. That promise lasted two years.

Posted by: Trashhauler on October 10, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK



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