September 21, 2006
The Other Iraq
By Greg Reeson
Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, virtually everyone from U.S. government officials to Washington think tanks to the mainstream media has subscribed to the idea of a national government seated in Baghdad. As the war drags on, though, the idea of an Iraq divided into three autonomous states, based largely along sectarian lines, is beginning to pick up some momentum, particularly among the Iraqi citizenry.
Despite U.S. pressure to maintain a unity government, the division of Iraq into three new states may provide the best hope for eventual peace.
A bloc of the majority Shiites, led by Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has been pushing legislation in the Iraqi parliament that would enable the creation of an autonomous Shiite region in the Iraqi south. This independent federation of provinces would have control over its own security, and over the oil reserves located in southern Iraq.
Under the Shiite plan, the southern districts of Iraq would combine to form an independent region much like the Kurdish region currently in place in the north. Kurdish leaders, who have long sought independence from the central Iraqi government, predictably support the legislation.
Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime, the Kurds have been quietly, and not so quietly at times, moving forward with their plan for an autonomous Kurdistan that would be self-governing and would control the oil fields in northern Iraq.
The Kurds have never missed an opportunity to oppose a central Iraqi government, calling for the authority to secure northern Iraq with Kurdish militias, the control of oil revenues from the northern fields, and the removal of the Iraqi Army from Kurdish controlled areas. Recently, Massoud Barzani, head of the current government in the Kurdish north, demanded The Iraqi national flag being flown on government buildings be removed and replaced with the Kurdish flag.
Simultaneously, the Kurds have launched “The Other Iraq Campaign 2006,” an
all-out media blitz in the United States designed to encourage business investment in Kurdish agriculture and in the oil fields located in the Kurdish region. Television commercials feature Iraqi Kurds thanking the United States for freeing them from Saddam, with images of ink-stained fingers and waving American flags.