27 November 2003

Iraq: Three from one doesn't add up

Gelb's proposal is the singularly least democratic suggestion offered to solve the Iraq crisis to date. Moreover, no neighboring country would accept the idea of dividing Iraq. How many small, artificial and unviable countries (like Jordan and the Gulf countries) does the West wish to create in repetition of its post-Ottoman errors? Unlike Yugoslavia, Iraq's different groups have no history of separate existence and they have no history of mutual slaughter. It is true that Iraq was to a certain extent an invention. But all states begin as an imagined idea. A state succeeds if its people believe in it. Iraqis believe in Iraq. If anything, the American occupation is only uniting Iraqis in resentment of the foreigners and non-Muslims who rule them, and increasing their desire to be 'free, independent and democratic' as the graffiti says on walls throughout the country. These are the 'ambitions' of the Sunnis that Gelb demonizes, just as they are the ambitions of the Shi'ites and Kurds. Iraqis believe in Baghdad, an extremely diverse capital city, where Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds live together and even intermarry.

Gelb, like all conscientious observers, is seeking a just solution for the debacle that poor planning (as well as poor justification) caused in Iraq. The solution is to build a strong united Iraq. This can be done by empowering the IGC, by establishing a constitution that protects against dictatorship and the domination of the country by one group, by returning sovereignty to Iraqis as soon as possible, and by avoiding the imposition of Washington based ideologies that are disconnected from the reality of Iraq.

The three states idea is getting a trot here, there and everywhere across most of the blogosphere. The proposal has been roundly bagged by Juan Cole. Partition has not been a fantastic success, from India/Pakistan to Bosnia. Partition imposed from outside against the wishes of the Iraqi people and all neighbouring states is a truly dreadful idea.

Partition which would leave an independent Kurdistan without any resource base except oil, no access to the sea and hostile neighbours on all sides. Partition ignores Turkish policy that an independent Kurdistan is a casus belli and Turkey's record of using the water weapon. Partition ignores the continuing water dispute throughout the Euphrates/ Tigris basin where the Southeast Anatolia Project is extracting huge amounts of water upstream and reducing the downstream flow through Iraq and Syria.

Worst of all partition is an American idea drawn for American reasons. Evolving increasingly weird solutions to allow the US to withdraw with honour suggests only that it would have been better not to enter without honour in the first place.

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