October 22, 2006
Dividing Iraq and Creating a Kurdish State
By Ardalan Hardi
Previously in his interview with Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal President Bush said to partition Iraq would be "a mistake." Bush went on to say "the Iraqi people are going to have to make that decision."
The current government that rules Iraq as a state exists only in name. The division of – Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni – already has happened. Mistake or not it is very much a reality we have to face. If our goal is to reform the Middle East like President Bush suggests, then we have to accept the will of the people of Iraq and accept the inevitable. Democracy is not forcing people to live together that do not want to.
On Oct. 11 the Iraqi parliament approved a law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions. The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0.
In his last interview on Fox News, President Bush said he would reject any recommendation to partition Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines and that creating semi-autonomous states for Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Muslims would worsen divisions in Iraq. It would seem that Bush is back-tracking from his earlier statement of letting the Iraqi people make their own decision. It is understandable for the president to have reconsidered his earlier comments when it comes to Iraq’s’ future since the U.S. has invested so much money and manpower in freeing Iraq from tyranny. However, to emphatically rule out the partition of Iraq is regrettable.
Staggering violence in Iraq, has now taken 2,791 American lives and according to The Lancet, the British medical journal, 650,000 Iraqi lives have been lost. It is time for a new approach in Iraq.
Many experts agree dividing Iraq is the only way to keep stability in the region and to bring foreign troops home.
Senator Trent Lott, former republican party senate majority leader says “When it comes to curbing Iraq’s sectarian violence, we should remember that Iraq is essentially three peoples — Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites — lumped together long ago by Colonial Britain into the manufactured nation of Iraq. Suppressed by decades of dictatorship, these three peoples still have distinct historical and cultural differences, manifesting themselves again and threatening the stability of the region and the entire world.” He goes on to say “Iraq requires a new plan.”
Peter Galbraith, former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and author of a new book, The End of Iraq,” says “Iraq has disintegrated into three parts – a pro-Western Kurdistan in the north, an Iranian-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center.” He goes on to say “There can be no strategy of keeping Iraq together because it is not together.”
U.S. senator Joe Biden says “resolving the problems in Iraq will require separating the various factions there.” He added “the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis need to have their own mostly autonomous regions in Iraq, that reconstruction assistance should be increased to the country and that most U.S. troops should be withdrawn by 2008.” Biden said this plan would be similar to what was done during the mid-1990s in Bosnia.
President Bush’s desire to keep Iraq as a unified country is hopeless and unworkable. The sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq for last few years is not going to go away like Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says “There seems to be no power able to hold Iraq together. Attempts to set up a national unity government, in which all groups will be represented, have failed.” Such attempts will probably fail in the future as well, even if they are papered over by some verbal, worthless face-saving formula.”
"Iraq is going the way of the former Yugoslavia. When ethnic and religious groups are unable and unwilling to live together in a country held together by force and lacking any democratic traditions, disintegration may be the only way out."
"Maybe three separate states in what used to be Iraq have a better chance - as occurred in Yugoslavia - of leading to some stabilization and even democratic development."
"By calling the strife in Iraq "sectarian," observers and policymakers are trying to minimize the deep chasms that divide Iraqi society - like calling the bloody wars between Catholics and Protestants in 17th-century Europe "sectarian." But those were not only about theological disagreements; they were about identity, historical narrative and memory."
"The sooner one realizes their force - and their legitimacy within their respective communities - the sooner illusions about abstract democracy and non-existing unity can be replaced by more realistic policies."
However, President Bush maintains that such a move would increase violence in the region and "create problems for Turkey". On the contrary, many, including some Turkish experts, agree that a Kurdish state would be a beneficial to Turkey’s security. Furthermore, Turkey would rather see a democratic Kurdish state rather than another Islamic fundamentalist regime on its border. Moreover, the Turkish economy is already benefiting from a Kurdish regional government developing economy.
Sedat Laciner, director of the USAK says “Contrary to the general belief, there is no fear of the establishment of a Kurdish state among Turkish public opinion. The premise that a possible Kurdish state in Northern Iraq will threaten Turkey is not a majority view in Turkey. On the contrary, a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq may have some advantages for Turkey.”
This week another Republican from Bush's home state has come to the same conclusion. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas expressed her openness to consider the value of breaking up Iraq.
President Bush did the right thing by getting rid of the dictator Saddam. Now it is time to come to the right conclusion by dividing Iraq and getting our troops out of harms way.
A united Iraq does not exist and never will. Forcing unity in a country that does not want to be unified creates a time bomb that could bring further negative ramifications and greater consequences to the future of U.S. foreign policy. It is false to think that a united Iraq keeps U.S. interests at heart when it only benefits those neighboring countries that lack democracy in their own states and are fearful that a true democratic Kurdish state might coerce them to change their ways. By dividing Iraq, at least we will gain the Kurdish nation as an ally in a region where true friends are hard to come by. We might even gain some influence from the Shiite’s in the south.
Like former senator Trent Lott says “I’d rather have 50 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing.”