Page 1 of 2 THE ROVING EYE 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