Tuesday, May 03, 2016

We Cannot Escape the Job at Hand.

For those who believe splitting up Iraq into three parts will solve the problem of violence, please look at South Sudan (and the Sudan that remained). We cannot easily escape the problems of winning Iraq War 2.0.

At least there is some hope in Sudan these days:

South Sudan has finally formed its transitional coalition government. This process is months behind the schedule stipulated in the peace treaty. The transitional government includes leaders from the loyalist government faction led by the elected president Salva Kiir and the rebel faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar. ... Creating the transitional government is a big step toward peace. However, sporadic fighting continues throughout the country and many observers are referring to it as “the messy peace.”

But the problems of partition have simply added the problems of Sudan versus South Sudan to the internal problems of South Sudan (no longer unified to resist Sudan) and Sudan.

Splitting up Iraq as many have wanted in the past into a Sunni Arab state, a Shia state, and a Kurdish (Sunni but not Arab) state would at best leave a "messy peace," too.

People and resources are not neatly divided into three distinct pieces of real estate despite the generalization that the Sunnis are in the west, the Kurds in the north, and the Shias in the south.

Families aren't neatly divided that way.

So the borders of the state would be contested. And no matter where the borders are drawn, people will be on the "wrong" side of the border from where they are "supposed" to be.

So who makes the people move? Does the United Nations send in force to forcibly ethnically cleanse areas to conform to the messy peace?

Remember, too, that there are other minorities in smaller numbers apart from the big three. Where do they go? Who protects them? Are they to get semi-autonomous regions within the partitioned new states or are they just out of luck?

Oh well, perhaps if these unrecognized minorities increase demographically, one day they will contest the partition details. Or maybe they just become a source of more refugees.

And what about resources? If you are in an area without resources is it just tough luck for you?

How to the Sunni Arabs get access to the sea?

How do the Kurds get access to the outside world?

And if the Sunni Arabs are stuck in an arid poor region in the west, how do we prevent them from sinking into jihadi thoughts to explain their poor condition?

And keep in mind that in this case the paranoid thinking that imposes Western plots that destroy their lives as an explanation for their woes would actually be true because they would be independent because of an international agreement.

The envy would become hostile as they see Kurds and Shias exporting oil and doing better than them.

How long would it be before the new parts of partitioned Iraq were arming up and plotting to overturn the bad parts of the partition that left them without the territory they believe the should have gotten in the first place?

In those circumstances, how do the three new entities treat the minorities from the other two that still live within their borders? Remember that families are mixed and not easily partitioned.

And even as internal bickering would not be solved, international conflict with the neighbors of geographic Iraq would be encouraged.

Perhaps the Saudis see the Sunni west as prime recruiting grounds for their form of Islam to create an ally and buffer against Iran and a potential Shia vassal state in the southern half of Iraqi territory.

Perhaps the Kurds find themselves at war with Turkey and Iran, with the rest of the former Iraqis looking on with some satisfaction that the Kurds are finally getting what they deserve.

And no doubt the Iranians find penetrating a Shia sub-Iraq easier because this entity is now weaker and lacks the Sunni Arabs and Kurds who would bolster the anti-Iran factions of the Shias to resist Iran.

So now Kuwait gets more nervous. As does Saudi Arabia just south of that speed bump to Iranian land aggression (see Saudi reaction above).

Jordan, of course, might have a radical state on their eastern border that destabilizes the minority-based monarchy.

And Syria, if it hopes to recover, will also have a radical state on its eastern and southern border.

And do Syria's Kurds accept being part of Syria when Iraq's Kurds get their own state?

Oh, and Iran has a Kurdish minority, too. So Iranian hostility to a Kurdish entity would be baked into a partition. Does Iran fear that entity or see it as a potential target to add to Iran's empire (Iran is barely a majority of Persians, recall).

So stop speaking of partition of Iraq as a solution to today's problems. In my view, it simply opens a Pandora's Box of more and bigger problems.

Sure, as I've long said, once Iraq is at peace perhaps a breakup discussed by sober minds not involved in fighting could be negotiated. Czechoslovakia managed that.

But to propose partition of Iraq now is a fantasy that hopes to escape the difficult job of winning Iraq War 2.0 by starting a worse future that in the short run we pretend will be a better if "messy peace."

We thought we could walk away in 2011 after achieving battlefield victory in the Iraq War without cementing that battlefield victory. That didn't work out. And we're back in Iraq to fight our enemies.

We can't walk away yet again with a partition and escape even the military victory portion of stabilizing the region before we get to the job of staying to cement a battlefield victory yet to come.

Work the problems, as I've long said on these pages. Stop looking for fantasy escapes.

Not that I'm opposed to all partitions everywhere under all circumstances. Sometimes even a bad partition will be better than the status quo. But the balance of costs and benefits of splitting up Iraq seems so weighted to the bad that it should be a non-starter.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: This post was scheduled. Prior to posting, I noticed this dissent from the revived partition movement.