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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EK27Ak05.html Nov 27, 2003 Iraq: Three from one doesn't add up By Nir Rosen Iraq is "artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities", says Leslie Gelb in his November 25 New York Time article. Gelb - a former editor and columnist for the Times and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations - advocates dismembering Iraq into three parts, a Kurdish north, a Sunni center and a Shi'ite south, in what he calls the "Three State Solution". Gelb is no doubt motivated by a sincere desire to extricate the United States from the Iraq briar patch. He led the anti-Vietnam War group during the Lyndon B Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations. He commissioned the Pentagon Papers that exposed the lie behind the Vietnam War and extricated the US from a previous morass. Gelb headed the State Department's Political Military Bureau under former president Jimmy Carter. He was one of the few people to understand the vanity of supporting the Shah of Iran and ignoring Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the Islamic Revolution in 1979. His warnings went unheeded and US arrogance resulted in the hostage crisis. Gelb is thus in a unique position today to only increase the tangles in the Gordian knot tied by policy makers who were clueless about Iraq. Gelb believes that chopping Iraq up would "allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly - with the Kurds and Shi'ites". This would force the "troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences". International law prohibits an occupying power from altering the structure of the occupied country, let alone dividing it up. This perhaps is not a good argument because international law was ignored throughout this conflict and continues to be flouted as the occupying powers impose their economic philosophies on Iraq. Gelb views Sunnis as the "bad guys" American foreign policy always seems to need and seeks to punish them further until they behave, a course of action sure to fulfill his prophecy and indeed make all Sunnis the enemy. What "ambitions" is he referring to? Shouldn't Sunnis be encouraged to participate in the new Iraq? Shouldn't they feel it is theirs as well? Most of the resistance in Iraq is spontaneous and a reaction to the occupation, not part of some Sunni conspiracy. Iraq's Shi'ites are as eager to see American troops leave as the Sunnis are. Even moderate Shi'ite clerics have recently called for an immediate American withdrawal. American troops are not needed in Kurdistan, it is a peaceful region policed by the Kurds themselves, benefiting from 10 years of autonomy, as Gelb himself admits. That's why the American occupation is barely noticed there. While the Kurds of Iraq are indeed a distinct ethnic group, Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites are Arab Muslims. The vast majority consider themselves Iraqis first, and only then Sunnis or Shi'ites. Iraq's Shi'ites have consistently demonstrated their loyalty to the Iraqi nation. Shi'ites constituted the overwhelming majority of foot soldiers in the Iraqi army, even during the eight year war with Iran, a Shi'ite state to whom both Saddam Hussein and a Shi'ite-phobic American establishment assumed Iraqi Shi'ites were actually loyal. The Saudis recognized this in the Shi'ite uprising that followed Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and according to former American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, the Saudi government asked for US support of the Shi'ite rebels, seeing them as they saw themselves, Iraqis first, Shi'ites second, and not pawns of Iran. Iraq is unique in the Muslim world as a country where Sunnis and Shi'ites, both secular and religious leaders, have often collaborated against internal oppression and external aggression, and have not engaged in the vicious sectarian bloodshed seen in Pakistan, or the Wahhabi view of Shi'ites as heretics and polytheists. Shi'ite ayatollahs supported Sunni opposition movements, and a radical Shi'ite movement like the Da'wa party had a Sunni membership of 10 percent. Immediately following the fall of Saddam's regime a remarkable movement of Sunni-Shi'ite unity emerged with the participation of Iraq's alleged extreme religious leaders, including the Shi'ite Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni Sheikh Ahmed Kubaisi. When asked about differences between them, Iraqis from Tikrit to Najaf invariably say "there is no difference, we are all Iraqis", or "we are all Muslims". Often they would add that Americans are attempting to divide them by stressing their differences. Evidence of this is seen in the American appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), whose members were all selected because of their ethnic or religious identity. For the first time in Iraqi history, the ethnic and religious divisions were institutionalized. This was in fact the same error the international community made in Bosnia, where it enshrined the ethnic principle as the basis for the new government. It is wrong to speak of an artificial "Sunni triangle". Iraqis do not divide their country into religious regions like this. It is also wrong to say that Sunnis dominated Iraq under Saddam. More accurate would be to say that members of Saddam's extended tribe, or of his hometown, dominated Iraq, to the exclusion of everyone else. Many Sunnis in the so called Sunni triangle resent the undue importance Saddam gave to Tikritis, for example. Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites are related by common history and often common tribal relations, since Iraq only became a majority Shi'ite state after Sunni tribes converted to Shi'itism in the 18th century. Even the most extreme Iraqi Shi'ites are Iraqi nationalists and view Iran with suspicion. Iraqi Shi'ites believe their country is the rightful leader of the Shi'ite world, since Shi'itism began in Iraq, most sacred Shi'ite sites are in Iraq and the Hawza, or the Shi'ite clerical academy of Najaf, thought dominated by Shi'ites until recently. Iran is a rival for them. Iraqi nationalism and unity were proven when all members of the IGC unanimously rejected the American proposal to introduce Turkish peacekeepers into the country. An Iraqi population already skeptical of American motives would view any suggestion of further division as proof of a nefarious scheme to divide and plunder their country. Sunnis and Shi'ites would all take up arms and the resistance would be universal. There is no Sunni or Shi'ite Iraqi who wants to divide his country. The Kurds of Iraq are of course a separate ethnic group. However, they have participated in united opposition movements before the war, the reconstruction efforts after the war and are represented in the IGC by both major Kurdish parties. Even the Iraqi foreign minister is Kurdish. During Saddam's reign and before, many Kurds actually cooperated with the regime, serving as ministers and officers and even fighting the rebel brethren. Kurdish leaders from all political parties have called for inclusion in the new Iraq, and while many may dream of an eventual Kurdish state, all recognize that it is quixotic at this juncture. There is only a light American presence in Kurdistan anyway, and it is not the reason troops are meeting resistance elsewhere. A Kurdistan without US troops is the greatest fear of most Kurds today who live under the ominous shadow of their Turkish, Iranian, and even Syrian neighbors. There is no clear border for Kurdistan. Kurds covet Mosul and Kirkuk, where many Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmen would violently oppose secession. Gelb's proposal is the singularly least democratic suggestion offered to solve the Iraq crisis to date. Moreover, no neighboring country would accept the idea of dividing Iraq. How many small, artificial and unviable countries (like Jordan and the Gulf countries) does the West wish to create in repetition of its post-Ottoman errors? Unlike Yugoslavia, Iraq's different groups have no history of separate existence and they have no history of mutual slaughter. It is true that Iraq was to a certain extent an invention. But all states begin as an imagined idea. A state succeeds if its people believe in it. Iraqis believe in Iraq. If anything, the American occupation is only uniting Iraqis in resentment of the foreigners and non-Muslims who rule them, and increasing their desire to be "free, independent and democratic" as the graffiti says on walls throughout the country. These are the "ambitions" of the Sunnis that Gelb demonizes, just as they are the ambitions of the Shi'ites and Kurds. Iraqis believe in Baghdad, an extremely diverse capital city, where Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds live together and even intermarry. Gelb, like all conscientious observers, is seeking a just solution for the debacle that poor planning (as well as poor justification) caused in Iraq. The solution is to build a strong united Iraq. This can be done by empowering the IGC, by establishing a constitution that protects against dictatorship and the domination of the country by one group, by returning sovereignty to Iraqis as soon as possible, and by avoiding the imposition of Washington based ideologies that are disconnected from the reality of Iraq. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk