Thursday, August 10, 2006

Iraq's Partition Plans

The LA Times yesterday reported on plans by Iraq's Shia majority to partition the nation:
"Federalism will cut off all parts of the country that are incubating terrorism from those that are upgrading and improving," said Khudair Khuzai, the Shiite education minister. "We will do it just like Kurdistan. We will put soldiers along the frontiers."

The growing clamor for partition illustrates how dire the country's security, economic and political problems have come to seem to many Iraqis: Until recently, the idea of redrawing the 8 1/2 -decade-old map of Iraq was considered seditious.

Some of the advocates of partitioning the country are circumspect, arguing that federalism is only one of the tools under consideration for reducing violence.

But others push a plan by Abdelaziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a political party. Hakim advocates the creation of a nine-province district in the largely peaceful south, home to 60% of the country's proven oil reserves.

Sunni leaders see nothing but greed in the new push — the Shiites, they say, are taking advantage of the escalating violence to make an oil grab.

Iraq's oil is concentrated in the north and south; much of the Sunni-dominated west and northwest is desolate desert, devoid of oil and gas.

"Controlling these areas will create a grand fortune that they can exploit," said Adnan Dulaimi, a leading Sunni Arab politician. "Their motive is that they are thirsty for control and power."

Still, even nationalists who favor a united Iraq acknowledge that sectarian warfare has gotten so out of hand that even the possibility of splitting the capital along the Tigris, which roughly divides the city between a mostly Shiite east and a mostly Sunni west, is being openly discussed.

"Sunnis and Shiites are both starting to feel that dividing Baghdad will be the solution," said Ammar Wajuih, a Sunni politician.

Critics scoff at the idea that any geographical partitioning of Sunnis and Shiites will make the country safer. Some observers warn that cutting up the country's Arab provinces into separate religious cantons would be as cataclysmic as the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947.

Although growing numbers of Iraqis acknowledge that their country is in an undeclared civil war, a partition would "actually lead to increasing violence and sectarian displacement," said Hussein Athab, a political scientist and former lawmaker in Basra.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister isn't happy with his American guarantors of power:
Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has angrily charged American forces with undermining national reconciliation after a US-led raid in the eastern Baghdad stronghold of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr reportedly caused the death of three people, including a woman and a child.
The forthright criticism of US tactics comes just days after the launch of a much-publicised American-Iraqi crackdown, supported by Mr Maliki, on sectarian Sunni-Shia violence in the capital. But in a statement on government television late on Monday night, Mr Maliki said he was "very angered and pained" by the latest operation, which involved air and ground forces in the volatile Sadr City area early in the morning.

"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," Mr Maliki said.
Sectarian violence is still rife, despite extra thousands of American and Iraqi troops. Today, 35 were killed in a bomb attack outside Iraq's most revered Shia mosque in Najaf while in the capital deaths are now running at around 60 a day.

Does this finally qualify as a civil war even for Condi?

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