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Re: [casi] "Partition" and Iraq: Auden warns Leslie Gelb

Dear Drew et al

Juan Cole has what appears to me a very good critique of the three state
idea. it includes some interesting details. Saudi oil is in the Shi'ite
area, so, if the principle of breaking up countries according to religion is
accepted ...; al-Da'wa ia strongly Iraqi nationalist and broke with Chalabi
when he went for federalism; Kirkuk oil fields are running out: 'If that is
true, for the Iraqi Kurds to secede into a landlocked declining economy
would be political and economic suicide.'

Another good reply is the article by Nir Rosen at already posted to the
list by Andreas on 26th November. It too stresses the general sense of
solidarity there is between Shia and Sunni (which may be evident in the fact
that though the Shia are holding back from the sort of resistance that is
associated with the Sunnis they haven't exactly - so far as one can see -
been falling over themselves to condemn it).

(While the poem by Auden is certainly relevant, gosh, considered as poetry,
isn't it dreadful!)


[Tuesday, November 25, 2003]

 Why Breaking up Iraq is a Very, Very Bad Idea

Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council for Foreign Affairs and a
former NYT editor and columnist, argues in today's NYT that the US should
reconcile itself to Iraq splitting into three countries. I don't entirely
understand why he is pushing this agenda, and can't see anyone it would
help, but the idea is frankly dangerous. All we need is to have the Iraqi
nationalists convinced we intend to break up their country. That will
produce more blown-up US troops, God forbid.

Here are the reasons this is a bad idea.

The splitting up of Iraq into three countries would be unacceptable to all
the neighbors. Turkish officials have repeatedly said that they would go to
war to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state, so Mr. Gelb's
suggestion seems likely to cause quite a lot of trouble. Saudi Arabia's oil
is in a traditionally Shiite area, al-Hasa, and Riyadh is extremely nervous
about the possibility of the emergence of an Arab Shiite state in south
Iraq, to which the Ahsa'is may well wish to accede, leaving Saudi Arabia
penniless. Even Iranian Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei has warned against
those plotting to break up Iraq. These three neighboring states are
sufficiently powerful to stop any move toward a break-up of Iraq, and all
have signalled that they would do so, by force if necessary. Mr. Gelb, we'd
like to have fewer wars in the region, not more, please.

Moreover, I do not know of any significant social or political force in Iraq
that wants the country broken up into three independent states. The Shiite
parties mostly descend from al-Da`wa al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Call), which
has had a subtext of Iraqi nationalism since its founding around 1958. In
the 1960s and 1970s, it is said that up to ten percent of al-Da`wa members
were Sunni. In 1995, al-Da`wa broke with Ahmad Chalabi's INC precisely
because Chalabi acceded to Kurdish plans for a loose federation, whereas
al-Da`wa wants a strong central Iraqi state (run by Shiites according to
Islamic law). The way in which the Shiite Arabs reached out to the Turcoman
Shiites recently shows the sort of national linkages that are emerging (even
though the Turcoman would be considered ghulat or theological extremists by
mainstream Twelver Arabs).

Although Iraqi Kurds may want loose federalism, they know that independence
would provoke Turkish intervention. Moreover, independence is not all it is
cracked up to be. Ask the Slovaks, who are sinking into agrarian poverty
while Prague gets back on its feet. My understanding is that the Kirkuk oil
fields may well be depleted soon, and the future of Iraqi petroleum
production lies in the south. If that is true, for the Iraqi Kurds to secede
into a landlocked declining economy would be political and economic suicide.

Likewise, the Sunni Arab triangle is simply not a viable state (and would
lack petroleum income). Basically, people in Falluja and Ramadi would be
seceding to become a second Jordan, only smaller and poorer.

Iraqi nationalism has won. It is likely that both internal and external
actors will work to keep the country together. The Middle East suffers from
having small countries imposed by Western colonialism, such that the
petroleum wealth is in tiny principalities and the human capital in huge but
poor countries like Egypt. The region doesn't need any more small poor
countries with populations of 4 million each.

The alternative is to build into the new Iraq guarantees against a tyranny
of the Shiite majority. Have a bicameral legislature that over-represents
the Sunnis slightly. Have a bill of rights. Have elected provincial
governors and legislatures with their own local purview that the central
state cannot over-rule, and make them key to any amendments to the
constitution. In other words, learn something from a success story: the US

> From:
> Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 17:45:26 -0800 (PST)
> To:
> Subject: [casi] "Partition" and Iraq: Auden warns Leslie Gelb
> Everyone,
> In the NY Times, Leslie Gelb has blown the dust off the old three-state
> solution, and has proposed to partition Iraq.  But Mr. Gelb should first
> re-read
> W. H. Auden ("Partition", 1966):
> "Unbiassed at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
> Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition"
> 'Partition' concerns Sir Cyril Radcliffe's lone visit to the Indian
> sub-continent -- a colonial finale' that defined the border between India and
> Pakistan.  It took Sir Cyril less than two months:
> "But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
> A continent for better or worse divided."
> Mr. Gelb gives similar inattention to Iraqi's shared history, intermarried
> families, intermingled property, varying resources, varying prospects, refugee
> populations, and war-stressed infrastructure.  But Mr. Gelb doesn't live in
> Iraq, does he?
> "The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
> The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
> Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot."
> Perhaps one million people died in the turmoil following the sub-continent's
> partition, and millions more were uprooted.  Fifty years later, the border
> remains the world's most dangerous nuclear flashpoint.  Whatever odds you give
> our damnable occupation, it would be a moral disaster to bomb, and then
> partition, and then run.
> Regards,
> Drew Hamre
> Golden Valley, MN USA
> ===
> On Auden's poem, see:
> On the partition, see:
> On Leslie Gelb's piece, see:
> and
> Following is the piece itself:
> n=
> November 25, 2003
> The Three-State Solution
> President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his
> critics' alternatives, share a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States
> to
> a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct
> ethnic
> and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the
> application of overwhelming and brutal force.
> President Bush wants to hold Iraq together by conducting democratic elections
> countrywide. But by his daily reassurances to the contrary, he only fans
> devastating rumors of an American pullout. Meanwhile, influential senators
> have
> called for more and better American troops to defeat the insurgency. Yet
> neither
> the White House nor Congress is likely to approve sending more troops.
> And then there is the plea, mostly from outside the United States government,
> to
> internationalize the occupation of Iraq. The moment for multilateralism,
> however, may already have passed. Even the United Nations shudders at such a
> nightmarish responsibility.
> The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and
> move
> in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the
> center and Shiites in the south.
> Almost immediately, this would allow America to put most of its money and
> troops
> where they would do the most good quickly  with the Kurds and Shiites. The
> United States could extricate most of its forces from the so-called Sunni
> Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, largely freeing American forces from
> fighting a costly war they might not win. American officials could then wait
> for
> the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to
> moderate
> their ambitions or suffer the consequences.
> This three-state solution has been unthinkable in Washington for decades.
> After
> the Iranian revolution in 1979, a united Iraq was thought necessary to counter
> an anti-American Iran. Since the gulf war in 1991, a whole Iraq was deemed
> essential to preventing neighbors like Turkey, Syria and Iran from picking at
> the pieces and igniting wider wars.
> But times have changed. The Kurds have largely been autonomous for years, and
> Ankara has lived with that. So long as the Kurds don't move precipitously
> toward
> statehood or incite insurgencies in Turkey or Iran, these neighbors will
> accept
> their autonomy. It is true that a Shiite self-governing region could become a
> theocratic state or fall into an Iranian embrace. But for now, neither
> possibility seems likely.
> There is a hopeful precedent for a three-state strategy: Yugoslavia after
> World
> War II. In 1946, Marshal Tito pulled together highly disparate ethnic groups
> into a united Yugoslavia. A Croat himself, he ruled the country from Belgrade
> among the majority and historically dominant Serbs. Through clever politics
> and
> personality, Tito kept the peace peacefully.
> When Tito died in 1980, several parts of Yugoslavia quickly declared their
> independence. The Serbs, with superior armed forces and the arrogance of
> traditional rulers, struck brutally against Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
> Europeans and Americans protested but  stunningly and unforgivably  did
> little
> at first to prevent the violence. Eventually they gave the Bosnian Muslims and
> Croats the means to fight back, and the Serbs accepted separation. Later, when
> Albanians in the Serb province of Kosovo rebelled against their cruel masters,
> the United States and Europe had to intervene again. The result there will be
> either autonomy or statehood for Kosovo.
> The lesson is obvious: overwhelming force was the best chance for keeping
> Yugoslavia whole, and even that failed in the end. Meantime, the costs of
> preventing the natural states from emerging had been terrible.
> The ancestors of today's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have been in Mesopotamia
> since before modern history. The Shiites there, unlike Shiites elsewhere in
> the
> Arab world, are a majority. The Sunnis of the region gravitate toward
> pan-Arabism. The non-Arab Kurds speak their own language and have always fed
> their own nationalism.
> The Ottomans ruled all the peoples of this land as they were: separately. In
> 1921, Winston Churchill cobbled the three parts together for oil's sake under
> a
> monarch backed by British armed forces. The Baathist Party took over in the
> 1960's, with Saddam Hussein consolidating its control in 1979, maintaining
> unity
> through terror and with occasional American help.
> Today, the Sunnis have a far greater stake in a united Iraq than either the
> Kurds or the Shiites. Central Iraq is largely without oil, and without oil
> revenues, the Sunnis would soon become poor cousins.
> The Shiites might like a united Iraq if they controlled it  which they could
> if
> those elections Mr. Bush keeps promising ever occur. But the Kurds and Sunnis
> are unlikely to accept Shiite control, no matter how democratically achieved.
> The Kurds have the least interest in any strong central authority, which has
> never been good for them.
> A strategy of breaking up Iraq and moving toward a three-state solution would
> build on these realities. The general idea is to strengthen the Kurds and
> Shiites and weaken the Sunnis, then wait and see whether to stop at autonomy
> or
> encourage statehood.
> The first step would be to make the north and south into self-governing
> regions,
> with boundaries drawn as closely as possible along ethnic lines. Give the
> Kurds
> and Shiites the bulk of the billions of dollars voted by Congress for
> reconstruction. In return, require democratic elections within each region,
> and
> protections for women, minorities and the news media.
> Second and at the same time, draw down American troops in the Sunni Triangle
> and
> ask the United Nations to oversee the transition to self-government there.
> This
> might take six to nine months; without power and money, the Sunnis may cause
> trouble.
> For example, they might punish the substantial minorities left in the center,
> particularly the large Kurdish and Shiite populations in Baghdad. These
> minorities must have the time and the wherewithal to organize and make their
> deals, or go either north or south. This would be a messy and dangerous
> enterprise, but the United States would and should pay for the population
> movements and protect the process with force.
> The Sunnis could also ignite insurgencies in the Kurdish and Shiite regions.
> To
> counter this, the United States would already have redeployed most of its
> troops
> north and south of the Sunni Triangle, where they could help arm and train the
> Kurds and Shiites, if asked.
> The third part of the strategy would revolve around regional diplomacy. All
> the
> parties will suspect the worst of one another  not without reason. They will
> all need assurances about security. And if the three self-governing regions
> were
> to be given statehood, it should be done only with the consent of their
> neighbors. The Sunnis might surprise and behave well, thus making possible a
> single and loose confederation. Or maybe they would all have to live with
> simple
> autonomy, much as Taiwan does with respect to China.
> For decades, the United States has worshiped at the altar of a unified yet
> unnatural Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state
> to
> emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and
> dangerous.
> Washington would have to be very hard-headed, and hard-hearted, to engineer
> this
> breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would
> allow
> us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past.
> Leslie H. Gelb, a former editor and columnist for The Times, is president
> emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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