The idea that we could achieve victory by splitting Iraq into a Kurdish state, a Sunni Arab state, and a Shia state was awful when proposed by then-Senator Biden (and others), and it is awful now that Fareed Zakaria is proposing it:
The United States should recognize that Iraq is turning into a country of enclaves and work to ensure that these regions stay as stable, terrorism-free and open as possible. The Kurdish enclave, bolstered by having captured the vital city of Kirkuk, is already a success story. The Shiite region of the south can be stable. It will be possible to work with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan to influence the Sunni groups in the middle of the country, purging terrorists and empowering moderate Sunnis.
The idea that we can avoid the cost of defeating our enemies in Iraq by splitting Iraq into a Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia states is ridiculous.
Let's just assume that somehow the borders within Iraq can be drawn and populations moved--including who gets Baghdad--without a major struggle as Zakaria's proposal would require.
And let's assume that the assets and liabilities of Iraq can be apportioned among the three new states.
Once you get past those minor piddling details that I'm sure the ginormous brain of Zakaria could dispose of with a one-page memorandum to the parties on the wonders of a "soft" partition that avoids those hard details, then we face the reality of three sectarian-based states.
Splitting off an independent Kurdistan could wreck that de facto independent success story taking place within the formal legal status of being part of Iraq. Why risk that success by making a formally independent Kurdistan a magnet for hostility by Turkey and Iran who face sizable unhappy Kurdish minorities? What if Kurdistan wants to unite with the Kurds of Syria, too?
If the Kurds can't get the Turks and Iranians to sign off on this, the Turks could pressure the Sunni Arab state to block the Kurdish state's access to the world. And Iran could pressure the Shia state to do the same. How does the landlocked Kurdish state thrive in those circumstances?
Splitting off an independent Sunni Arab state essentially just gives the region to jihadis who already dominate the region. Without Iraqi troops trying to stop the jihadis, just who would? The local Sunnis haven't controlled the jihadis. Just who will help defeat the jihadis if anti-jihadi Sunni Arabs can't call on Iraqi government troops that include Shias and Kurds?
But Zakaria seriously thinks that Saudi Arabia and Jordan will influence those jihadi groups to behave or will strengthen non-jihadis to create a non-jihadi Sunni state in the west? In what alternate universe would Sunni Arabs be a source of stability rather than offering support for jihadis?
Even if wealthy Gulf Arab states didn't support a jihadi Iraqi state in the west as a counter-weight to Iran and the Shia state in the south, wealthy Arab Sunnis who support jihadis around the Middle East would simply add the Iraqi Sunnis to their list of grant recipients--and put them to the top of the list since they'd control a state of their own.
And what of Shia Iraq left in the south? Without Kurds and Sunni Arabs as counter-weights to the pro-Iran elements within the Shia community that helps limit Iranian influence in current Iraq, the pro-Iran elements obviously become a larger part of that new Shia state. Even if the pro-Iran elements are still a minority, they will be a larger minority. In what world does that contribute to a stable state? How is that possibly in our interests?
One day, when Iraq is peaceful--say as peaceful as it was at the end of 2011 when the Obama administration was boasting of our success, Iraqis could agree among themselves to go their separate ways. Under those conditions, a partition could go as peacefully as Czechoslovakia rather than looking more like Yugoslavia.
Why does anybody listen to Zakaria on anything but the correct spelling of his name?
Yes, I know. I say this a lot. But Fareed Zakaria couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal.
I say it because it is true. Don't listen to this man. God bless him, but he hasn't a clue.
And if God is just and loving, he will keep this man from getting a position in the Obama foreign policy establishment.