October 1, 2007
U.S. Tries to Allay Anger Over Iraq Partition Plan
By ALISSA J. RUBIN
BAGHDAD, Sept. 30 — The American Embassy reiterated its support on Sunday for a united Iraq as six political parties together voiced their objection to a United States Senate resolution endorsing partitioning the country into three states. In a statement, the embassy said: “Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself.
. . . The statement rebuffs the nonbinding Senate measure, sponsored by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and approved last week, which calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions controlled respectively by Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. The proposal resembles the power-sharing arrangement used to end the 1990s war in Bosnia among Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats.
Many Iraqi politicians have reacted angrily to the proposal, suggesting that at the very least they find it presumptuous . . . Iraqis have volunteered their opinion to American reporters they encountered. Said one, “So you are going to divide our country.”
. . . The Kurdish parties and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by the Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim, however, strongly support an arrangement in which much of the central government’s power is devolved to the regions. The Kurds already run a semiautonomous state in the north, and the Supreme Council hopes to see the nine majority Shiite provinces in the south band together to form a Shiite region.
If I have this right, Senator Biden seems to have hit more of a nerve about whose idea it was then the difficulty of Iraqi acceptance of partition. In the “So you are going to divide our country” statement, the you was more a problem than the divide our country.
America is one of the only (maybe the only) nation that has ever fought a civil war to hold itself together. Yugoslavia doesn't count, it wasn't so much trying to achieve that as to divide the spoils.
In most instances and certainly in Iraq, civil war cannot possibly provide the country with a single entity capable of holding it all together. Democracy is no picnic to achieve, but you have to at least start with people who want to build a nation together. The Kurds don't want it and neither the Shiites or Sunnis are powerful enough to control the war-lords and Mullahs.
Only Saddam was capable of that, as only Tito could hold Yugoslavia together.
So, Joe Biden (who is often criticized for his candor) nailed it. Joe often nails it, but he is far too straight a shooter to ever become president. Obviously, the U.S. Senate doesn't control the Iraqi Parliament--which can't control itself, which is the real proof of a very stinky pudding. Unlike wine or cheese, this pudding will not improve with age.
But Joe has done a great service by beginning a dialog that Iraqis have thus far ignored. Truth is (as far as truth can ever be known) Iraq will end up a partitioned country--one way or another.