Monday, March 26, 2007

Iraq from a Different Point of View

Much has been said and written about why America is having trouble in Iraq---not enough commitment, not enough troops, not enough money, not giving the Iraqi army jobs ASAP, or too much de-baathification. One argument that has not seen as much print is the comparison of Iraq to the former nation of Yugoslavia.

Both Iraq and Yugoslavia are/were ethnically/religiously divided nations that were held together by brutal, but capable, dictators (Saddam Hussein and Josip Broz Tito respectively.) When these dictators were removed/died power struggles amongst ethnic groups ensued; which is the case for Iraq today and was the case for over twenty years.

Unlike Yugoslavia, where there were a myriad of ethnic groups, Iraq only has three: Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. The major issue in the Iraqi ethnic violence, at least for Shia-Sunni violence, is the fact that ever since the time of the Ottoman Empire (founded 1453) is that this Shia majority country has been ruled by the minority Sunnis! When the minority controls the majority it rarely turns out well (the India-Pakistan and Sri Lankaian conflicts jump to mind at the moment.)

Currently if I was Shia very little could be done to quell my internal fires as seeing this “American Occupation” as my people’s chance to be in power for the first time. On the other hand if I was Sunni I would see it as my historical right to control Iraq and want things to go back to the way they were prior to American intervention. As for the Kurdish nation they are on a militaristic precipice with Turkey.

This is the wasp’s nest America has gotten itself into.

A recent poll conducted by D3 systems in Iraq for the BBC, ABC, and other news agencies supports the idea the nation is almost irrevocably torn. Some of the more glaring facts are that seventy-eight percent of Sunnis said it was absolutely wrong for America to have invaded Iraq while seventy percent of Shia felt that it was the correct thing to do. Iraq is expectedly totally divided on the way Saddam Hussein’s execution was held. Optimistically fifty-three percent of Iraqi’s think that in five years Iraq will be a democracy. Pessimistically they blame just about all of Iraq’s woes on the United States and Coalition Forces; seventy-six percent feel that United States and Coalition Forces have done “quite a bad job or a very bad job” since the war, and sixty-nine percent feel that US forces are making Iraq worse.

With that last statistic in mind I want to make one thing very clear: the only time in the past four hundred years the religious and ethnic factions of Iraq could work together on anything was in 1920 during “The Great Iraq Revolution”; an attempt to dislodge the occupying British during the post World One I British occupation of Iraq. The only thing agreed upon in hundreds of years was they did not like foreigners!

I think it is very clear that no matter what type of counterinsurgency the US Army comes up with (short of all out genocide or a massive troop deployment) the only people who will ever be able to stop the violence in Iraq are Iraqis. I have no malice towards the Iraqi people but I think the Iraqi people have “hate” for one and other. Until that ethnic discrimination is eliminated stability and democracy is just a dream.

Currently the United States is trapped---if we leave the nation collapses, if we stay our budget deficit grows larger, and more brave American troops die. The quickest solution, I feel, is to create strong autonomous regions cut, as best they can, along ethnic lines. This Combined with strong revenue sharing across regions could create a stable Iraq; if not Iraq will eventually disintegrate like Yugoslavia or end up in another dictatorial situation with ethnic suppression.

1 comment:

kyernel said...

You close with your suggestion for Iraq, that of partitioning the country into regions so all have a space and will presumably live quietly among themselves. I agree with your proposal, but things are not as easy as with Yugoslavia, which was/is not easy. Two outside factors play a huge role in the instability of Iraq, that of terrorists and criminals, and the influence of direct actions by the neighboring state of Iran. Neither of these played a significant role in the break up of Yugoslavia, although the argument can be readily made that the political and ethnic parties were themselves criminal.

Your partitioning would be along the lines of ethnicity, although you list two divisions based upon religion. The Shia and Sunni are the two dominant parties of the religion of Islam. If basing on religion, what of the multitude of diverse factions of both Sunni and Shia? Should they receive their own region?

The other important discussion relating to partitioning is the allocation of the two natural resources, oil and water. Although an oil rich state, all regions do not contain oil. Nor do all regions have the two major rivers of the Middle East running through them. Partitioning would require an equitable parceling of enough of these resources to minimally appease all; oil for this generation, water for the next. Other considerations would have to be made, such as the giving up of family lands, churches, shrines, etc., but may be less important than remaining alive.

The last point I will make is the soundness of polls taken from the Iraqi populace. I question who is left? Any upper or middle class left are in hiding, dressing down and driving beaten up cars, if driving at all. The certainly will not talk in the open to reporters, for fear of death. So, how then makes up the sampling of citizens the polls cite? I do not believe the polls represent anything but a majority of zealots, disenfranchised unable to get out, or fighters who have temporarily placed their weapons aside.