As conditions in Iraq worsten, and “stay the course” suddenly never meant what it said (how can four words, four syllables, mean something other than that?), it’s time to look at real ways out. As someone who has spent considerable time dealing with the clash of cultures, I’m going to do a Jonathan Swift and modestly propose the following (not new) idea: Divide to Conquer.
Splitting Iraq into sectarian sections is both a hard and easy thing to do. But with a little thought, and consideration of consequences, it is doable.
Who Gets the Loot?
There are six partners in this land grab, each with a stake:
- The people of Iraq get the thing they need most: stability, security and no further ties to Western governmental control
- Iran gets Eastern Iraq, from the south, including the swamps, up through to the Bagdhad area. Lots of oil, lots of Shi’ites.
- Here’s the tough one: the Kurds get their own state consisting of Northern Iraq, up to the Turkish border. Yes, this has lots of implications, eeach with their problems. They get oil, but a land-locked dependence on their neighbors. See discussion below.
- Syria’s piece of the pie is an odd slice. Below the Kurdish area, but above where Jordan gets their slice.
- Jordan? They get the southwestern portions of Iraq, bordering Saudi Arabia and what would be Iran. This would serve as a neutral buffer between the radical Islamic empires, and provide Jordan with much-needed leverage in the Middle East: access to oil.
- The US and the EU have huge stakes in a stable Middle East. Rather than have areas under rule of chaos, this split would ensure that each stakeholder had something to gain by ensuring stability — and a lot to lose by failing in that mission.
Okay, let’s face it: there never was a true Iraq. The Brits did a bang-up job on screwing up land ownership after they conquered the Ottoman Empire, and we are still living the results of their bungling from India to Iraq to Israel. The sun has finally set on the British Empire, but the fires are still burning.
The “Iraqi people” are no more homogeneous than the Palestinians or Israelis. While the latter were nominally bound closer together than the Palestinians ever have been, it’s safe to say that the Israelis of today are so diverse they could not now do what they did in 1948.
Aaanyway, they deserve the peace and stability that comes from living among their co-religionists and clans. Let ’em live apart if they can’t live together.
Sometimes you should give a coveter what they want. Add some more oil, and a few million more civilians, and many hundred square miles, and you get a distraction that should keep the Iranians busy for at least a few years. And who wants to have militant armies under someone else’s control? Let the Mahdi armies learn who the real top dogs are.
The favorite Arab punching bags, after Israelis, these folks already have experience running their own land. Upside: pretty instant stable tribal government. Downside: country envy from Turkish Kurds. Solution: Give Turks EU membership under the stipulation they leave the Kurds alone. This might not be stable in the 10-15 year time frame, but if Turkey manages to up its standard of living and provide real economic and social development opportunities for its large Kurdish minority, they can come up ahead in this delicate game. But they’ll need to grow up (and get some help from Western countries) in getting over their Kurdistan fetish.
My favorite next enemy. This has the downside of giving Hizb’allah a direct land connection from Iran, but it gives the Syrians a new export: oil. I expect it will have the salubrious effect of making Syria less interested in the religious politics and strings that current relationships with Iran bring along with weapons. Syria is a pragmatic dictatorship, and religious messes with that paradigm. As there aren’t any large populations in that area, they’re able to expand eastward without large local problems. Of course, they can always pull another Hama.
The only rational government in the Middle East, it still is the last hope for stable government. At least, unless the US decides to “help” them out. Giving them oil would be a huge blessing. They have a seaport, a relatively effective government, good relationships with almost all countries in the area, a roughly British, Western court system and a good track record of education and economic development. They need the oil more than any other (remaining) nation except Israel.
US & EU
These countries need to “get out of Dodge.” Any meddling, any interference, will be punished, no matter how well the actions are intended. Americans hand out candy? Kill the kids for collaboration. Brits give the Iraqi army a free hand? They’re at fault for Iraqi-inspired atrocities.
No, it’s not that simple. And yes, it’s unfair: so is life. Bad people may win, and good people might lose on the micro basis. But in the macro, this is a more stable solution than the status quo or any delusional “free and democratic state” that Cheney, Bush, Inc. might conceive in their K Street back offices.
Let’s start with the ugly, 800-pound oliphant. All the Arab states are so hip about Jerusalem being an international city, let ’em practice on Baghdad. Multinational force, a place for the meeting of minds and common area interests. Set up parks, cultural museums, safe havens for families to come to and not worry about their stressful lives back in their (new) homes. A regional stock exchange. A duty-free trading zone. Think Qatar, only with a San Antonio river walk.
The Great Migration
Yes, people will have their lives uprooted and ruined. That’s already happening. Barbers are killed for violating Islamic law by cutting hair one way — or the other. Shi’a and Sunni bullies are already performing the very act of Transfer they Israeli’s forbidden from doing. And getting an organized transfer will shed less blood than what’s happening now. (Now children! Keep your hands and AK-47s to yourselves!)
How Could we do this? Especially after Everything We’ve Invested!
Just watch. The dead can’t complain. The wounded won’t be back. The money’s gone to graft, mud and corporate America. Partition neatly gets around the Republican agenda of getting out of Iraq with a resolution (victory having been declared as a premature statement). Dems will love the amount of real humanitarian aid that can now be funneled to build a new country (Kurdistan) as well as help create an oasis out of Baghdad’s ruins.
I don’t know. Call your congressman/parlimentarian. Organize. Start thinking about how the details could be worked out. There’s a Nobel Peace Prize in it for whomever can turn this bloodbath around.