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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Should Iraq be partitioned?

Links: A. Considerations on partitioning Iraq.
           B. The U.S. contemplates partitioning Iraq.

In 2006, then-Senator Joe Biden suggested that consideration be given to the partition of Iraq.  I believe at the time, that the idea was to allow the Kurds a homeland in the north, the Sunni would stay put in the central belt region, and the Shi'a would have an independent state in the south.  For some reason, I couldn't buy into this argument, although for the life of me I can't recall why.  I know that Turkey would have had a proverbial herd of cows if the Kurds had been given a homeland, and the Sunni, who as a minority have always ruled Iraq, would've been forced to accept a smaller and less-wealthy nation, but something else kept me from joining the "pro-partition" partisans.  I think it was probably just an example of the traditionalist in me not wanted to change the maps again.  But we've reached that point again, when folks in position of authority are whispering about partitioning Iraq.  It does piss me off a bit, because this discussion wasn't really necessary.  We could have avoided this position if we hadn't been in such a hurry to get out of Iraq.

Our rapid departure from Iraq was not necessary.  The Iraqis were not requesting it, and our military leaders were strongly advising otherwise.  Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the Iraqi military needed to be responsible for Iraq's external security, but only after sufficient training had taken place.  Its my understanding that the training program that had been approved by the administration hadn't even started before Obama changed his mind and pulled the rug out from under everyone.  So we left Iraq in the hands of an untrained, unprofessional army, with a huge invitation to ISIS to "come on in, folks!"  And they didn't need to be asked twice.  The real tragedy is that Iraq was beginning to settle into existence as a unitary state, with an economy that connected all the various regions and ethnicities.  As its traditional boundaries are drawn, Iraq is fortunate to have natural resources distributed in all parts of the nation.  This fact contributed to the successful re-establishment of an internationally-focused economy.  The presence of the U.S. military allowed for consecutive years of peace, something foreign to many Iraqis.  Markets were open and full of produce, schools were full, traffic lights worked, the electoral process was improving with each election, Iraq's airports were using the designation "international" again, the national soccer team was winning (occasionally), and an Olympic team existed to represent all Iraqis.  Compare those few facts with the situation in Iraq today.  You can lay all of this at the feet of Barrack Obama.  He felt the political pressure from his base to follow through on his irresponsible pledge to rid Iraq of U.S. military forces at the earliest possible opportunity.  And lets face it: the ultimate sacrifice of all those American young men and women....does it mean nothing to Obama?  Peace was achieved and prosperity was at hand, and for politics' sake, he turned success into failure.  His actions did everything possible to encourage sectarian movement amongst the various ethnicities of Iraq. Without the U.S. Army, the only security is with your own kind.  That is the perspective of the various groups trying to survive in Iraq today.

Back to the idea of partitioning Iraq.  First and foremost, its really absurd of the United States to be considering the limits of the national boundaries of a sovereign nation which is diplomatically accredited in the United States and a member in good standing of the United Nations (what the hell is that, anyway?).  Be that as it may, I have always supported the Kurdish independence movement.  The Kurds have played the game so long, and been such good team players, that they deserve the opportunity to govern themselves.  The truth is, Kurdistan would probably exist today as a separate and legitimate nation-state if it weren't for issues regarding oil.  How much oil are the Kurds sitting on, and should it belong to all the people of Iraq, and not just the Kurds?  A specious argument, considering that the Kurds have never benefitted from any of the other oil deposits in Iraq.  Most Iraqis don't consider the Kurds to be Iraqi, even though most Kurds are Muslim.  If Iraq were at peace, it might not be a bad idea to consider three separate nations, one for each ethnicity.  But given the current conflict raging against the Islamic State, its really a moot point.  The good guys are hoping to find a way to keep Iraq from becoming one united nation under the Islamic State, and don't have much time to sit around discussing the viability of a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia separation.

A quick review of the excellent links that I've provided will remind everyone that efforts to create multiple nations based on ethnicity, from the remains of a failed, much larger state (Yugoslavia, for example), have usually not been successful.  I don't know if those examples are applicable in this instance, though.  If Iraq were divided into three nations, the two voices that would be screeching the loudest would be Turkey and the Iraqi Sunnis.  The Turks are paranoid that the establishment of a Kurdish state will eventually lead to an attempt to annex parts of eastern Asia Minor (Turkey), where the Turks constitute a majority of the population.  As long as Erdogan is in office, I'm all for anything that will piss off the Turks, so no problem there.  The Iraqi Sunnis will also threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue and pass out, because they've always been the chosen ones.  The Kurds, the Assyrians, the Shi'a, the Jews, have always had to sit way in the back of the Iraqi bus, so to speak.  Even though Saddam rarely spent money on infrastructure or social projects, when he did, it was for the benefit of a Sunni community.  That explains the abject poverty that exists in the Iraqi Shi'a communities located in the south-central and southern parts of Iraq.  The Kurds, God love 'em, didn't wait around for a handout from Saddam's Baghdad; they created their own economy, and also benefitted greatly from the Kurdish diaspora.  For all practical purposes, Kurdistan has been a self-sufficient nation-state for some time now.  Its just not recognized outside of Sulimaniyah.  The Kurds even have their own military, and as I've commented before, you don't want to pick a fit with the Pesh Merga.  As for the Iraqi Sunni, I don't think they will have much luck finding a sympathetic ear anytime soon.

Under ideal circumstances, It might just be time for serious consideration to be given to the partition of Iraq.  But given the current state of affairs, it just doesn't make sense.  We might be re-writing the boundaries of a nation that won't exist in 2016.  Lets focus on winning this war first.

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