October 21, 2006

Is it time to opt for a policy of division in Iraq?

Globe Editorial
By Khalid Khayati

American President George W Bush rejected any plan that would lead to a possible division of Iraq in three separate states.

In an exclusive interview with the famous journalist Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, on 18th October 2006 the American President George W Bush rejected any plan that would lead to a possible division of Iraq in three separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shia states. This is in spite of the fact that many political analysts see such a division as the only way to put an end to the sectarian and tribal violence that has ravaged the country since the American invasion in 2003. Similar to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the US President maintained that such a move would rather increase violence in the region and "create problems for Turkey and Syria". Likewise, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice who recently met the President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani in Erbil urged the Kurds to remain part of a unified Iraq.

Nevertheless, the prevailing chaotic situation in Iraq and the last declaration of the American President, George Bush and his Secretary of State induce us to pose following question: How realistic could it be to plead for a unitary and cohesive nation-state that would represent all ethno-national, confessional, tribal and other constituent social groups both at the level of national institutions and collective consciousness and the common sense of belongingness?
The way to achieve such an enterprise, meaning the re-creation of a "never existed nation" seems to be more than ever distant. During the 35 years of the reign of Baath Party, the use of violence par excellence was the only way to subordinate, discipline, exclude or, if needed, eliminate the Others who did not fit into the dominant patterns of being Iraqi. In this regard, the Kurdish people who were the victim of the gas attacks and a huge systematic genocide operations, commonly known as Anfal Campaign, were seen as a decent constituent of the Iraqi nation because its legitimacy or raison d'être was principally a consequence of an exclusive intersection and juxtaposition of Arab-nationalism and Islam. Today, more than three years after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein's regime, the hostility between different ethnic, confessional and tribal groups is striking more than ever before.

The bloody civil war, which is demonstrated in those many recurrent daily rituals of "carnage orgies" throughout the country, has already reached its climax. An independent report which was published recently talked about 650.000 Iraqi victims since the US troops invaded Iraq. The number of American casualties is close to 3000. Destruction, starvation and health problems that civil war generates would further affect millions of people.

Meanwhile, the presence of the American army which is seen by a large number of its opponents as the main generator of this catastrophic situation provides a huge recruiting boom for the terrorist al-Qaeda in the country. For example, the creation of an Islamic Iraqi state that was made public in the Sunni city of Ramadi, northwest of Baghdad, by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group called the Council of Mujahiddins indicates how the current Iraqi government and the American forces find it difficult to impose the order of law and institutions. Accumulated fiascos that are inflicted on the American and British forces in Afghanistan, and above all a very unfavourable public opinion in the United States which demands the return of the troops, do not make it easier for the American President to fulfil his Iraqi policy.
The former American Secretary of State, James Baker and the Republican senator John Warner have among others criticized the American policy in Iraq for being more than untenable, because it is highly costly both at the human and material levels. The above-mentioned indices show clearly that the creation of a democratic, unified and cohesive Iraqi nation with functioning institutions and services seems to be rather a painful illusion than a realistic project.

Therefore, as the former American ambassador to Croatia and the imminent debater Peter Galbraith maintains, the creation of a loose confederation of three Kurdish, Sunni and Shia states appears to be more practical. In fact, it will reduce the human and material costs of holding such an artificial nation together. The portioning of Iraq would be even in the interests of Turkey who is trying to join the European Union. So, it is time to opt for an approach of division before it is too late. The humanity does not afford any longer to see the daily carnages in Iraq.