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applegrove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 01:12 PM
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Partitioning Iraq by Juan Cole - Salon
Partitioning Iraq

Would dividing the country decrease ethnic infighting or lead to more fighting and inflame the Middle East?

By Juan Cole
Salon


Map of Iraq from the CIA's World Factbook

Oct. 30, 2006 |
The possibility that ethnic rivalries may break Iraq into three pieces has emerged as an election issue in U.S. politics. Last week, Bush administration spokesman Tony Snow branded any plan for partition a "nonstarter." Other politicians, however, are not so sure. Both Republicans and Democrats have endorsed a loose Iraqi federation of three equal parts, and some are even campaigning on the idea. Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee and Democratic House candidate Ted Ankrum of Texas are among those who have touted versions of partition on the stump. What are the pros and cons here, and what explains George Bushs die-hard opposition?

The most determined opponents of the creation of regional confederacies in Iraq are Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Turks fear that if there is an independent Kurdistan in Iraq's north, it will become a magnet for Turkey's own substantial and fractious minority of Kurds. Saudi Arabia, which adheres to the ultra-strict Wahhabi Sunni school of Islam, has poor relations with Shiite Iran, and traditionally had severe tensions even with its own Shiites, who form perhaps 10 percent of the Saudi population. It objects to a Shiite super-province right next door in Iraq's south.

It is likely in order not to ruffle Turkish and Saudi feathers that the Bush administration so firmly opposes all partition plans. Turkey, a NATO ally of Washington, has been even more vocal and critical than Saudi Arabia about the Iraq imbroglio. But Bush and Cheney are especially attentive to Saudi concerns. Like Riyadh, they would view an autonomous Shiite super-province, which could easily fall under the gravitational pull of Iran, as highly undesirable.

Within Congress, however, the temptation to indulge Iraq's warring factions in their desire to divide the country has grown. The most prominent proponent of carving Iraq into three major ethnically based provinces, with regions for the Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites under a weak federal umbrella, is Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. The idea has now been adopted by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. She told the Texas press last week, "Yes, it would be hard to do, but it would be worth trying ... People say, 'Well, that would balkanize the country.' Well, things are pretty stable in the Balkans right now. It's looking better than Iraq."

...........SNIP"

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/10/30/iraq_pa... /
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