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    Middle East
     Oct 4, 2007
Page 1 of 2
A divided Iraq just doesn't add up
By Pepe Escobar

The United States Senate in 2003 authorized President George W Bush to illegally invade and destroy Iraq. A horrendous quagmire and more than half a trillion dollars later, the Senate in 2007 wants - by 75 to 23 - to split Iraq into a (very) loose, three-region sectarian federation.

And the senators - Democrats plus a smattering of Republicans - want Bush to force the Iraqis to agree to what is essentially a

mandate for ethnic cleansing. It may be a non-binding resolution, calling for a "federal system" in its sanitized language, but this "solution" to the Iraq quagmire couldn't be more explosive. It was passed as an amendment to a defense policy bill last week.

Without doubt, the Senate has no authority to promote federalism or to dismember Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament does. The resolution in itself blows up the myth of a "sovereign" Iraq - as if additional proof was necessary. The Senate even managed the feat of clashing with the White House, which says it wants a unified Iraq. Bush would certainly veto the measure if it ever materialized on his desk.

Eyebrows should not be raised. This is the Senate that approved the branding of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a "terrorist organization".

Count us out
A weak central government in Baghdad and three super-strong, de facto autonomous regions spell only one thing for a majority of Iraqis who harbor very strong nationalist pride: partition. And all over the Arab world, partition is above all synonymous with Western imperialism.

Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, from the Da'wa party, is against it ("They [the US] should stand by Iraq to solidify its unity and its sovereignty"). Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala'i, Grand Ayatollah Sistani's man in holy Karbala, is against it ("It's a step toward the breakup of Iraq"). It's fair to assume he is expressing Sistani's position.

The powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars is against it - stressing that the breakup of Iraq has always been a prime motive behind the US invasion. Influential Sunni cleric Harith al-Dhari even accused Maliki of a plot to break up Iraq. Nine political parties and party blocs - Sunni and Shi'ite alike - vowed to pass a law banning any sectarian split.

Hashim Taie, from the Iraqi Accord Front, the main Sunni party, is against it ("We refuse resolutions which decide Iraq's destiny from outside Iraq. This is a dangerous partitioning based on sectarianism and ethnicity.")

Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary leader, Nasr al-Rubaie, is against it ("This project is the strategic option for the American administration in its failure to ignite a sectarian war inside Iraq. They started to search for a replacement [strategy], which is to divide Iraq.") Sadrists, contrary to US myth, are not sectarians, but in favor of a strong national government. They maintain that a provincial balance of power will be debated, but only after total US withdrawal.

Even the US Embassy in the heart of the Green Zone is against it ("Our goal in Iraq remains ... a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself.") That's about the only time ever that the US Embassy has agreed with the Sadrists.

It's obvious that were partition to be approved, all the oil wealth would be controlled by Kurds and Shi'ites. Sunnis would be left with loads of desert sand. That would be a recipe for endless war. A recent ABC/BBC poll tells it all: only 9% of Iraqis polled are in favor of partition. This means even Kurds have some misgivings.

What's in it for us?
The Kurds - faithful US allies, like the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani - mostly loved the Senate resolution. No wonder. Kurdistan, with its three provinces, is virtually an independent country already. Its relations with Baghdad are minimal.

With the US's Shi'ite allies the picture is much more nuanced. The Senate resolution happens to be the Supreme Iraq Islamic Council's (SIIC's) plan almost verbatim. Its author is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the SIIC's leader, currently in Iran undergoing cancer treatment. His original plan - establishing an eight-province Shi'iteistan - was approved by a simple parliamentary majority (with minimum quorum) in October 2006. It will not be implemented before mid-2008. For the Iraqi street (not the elite), Sunni and Shi'ite alike, the fact that the US Senate and the SIIC want the same thing for Iraq says everything there is to know about where true alliances lie.

As'ad Sultan Abu Kalal, the governor of Najaf province (from the SIIC), predictably likes it. Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi (also from the SIIC) at first was against it. Then he (slightly) changed

Continued 1 2 

How the 'gang of four' lost Iraq (Sep 28, '07)

The Iraq oil grab that went awry (Sep 27, '07)

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8. Ahmadinejad and Bush: Mirror men

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(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Oct 2, 2007)


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