Implicitly criticizing the Bush administration’s reliance on the Iraqi central government to unify the country, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the decentralization of Iraq into semi-autonomous regions.
The nonbinding measure sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) — which supports a “federal system” that would divide Iraq into sectarian-dominated regions — won unusually broad bipartisan support, passing 75 to 23. [complete article]
All in all the Biden amendment serves as an alarming but useful numerical indication of the level of support for an “ethnic” approach to Iraqi politics in the US Senate. It does not bode well for the future that the challengers to President Bush seem to converge on a scheme that would be even more unpalatable to the Muslim world than Washington’s current policy. True, Bush invaded Iraq, and Paul Bremer weakened it severely. There are worrying signs that some in the State Department, like Ryan Crocker, are already indistinguishable from Biden by tirelessly “encouraging” Sunnis to think in terms of federalism. But if his partition plans were implemented, Joe Biden would be remembered by Muslims and Arabs around the world in an altogether different way. He would be considered alongside other historical personalities who routinely are being accused by Middle Easterners for having destroyed their region completely: Arthur Balfour, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot. [complete article]
…if the pundits who urge partition had bothered to check what actually happened when centrifugal forces were pushed to the maximum in the south of Iraq in the 1920s, they would have seen that regionalism, not sectarianism, has historically been the main competitor to Iraqi nationalism south of Baghdad – and a feeble one at that.
The idea of tripartite break-up, on the other hand finds little resonance in Iraqi history. In testimony to their sublime artificiality, contemporary partitionist misnomers like “Shi’istan” and “Sunnistan” are altogether absent from the historical record; like much of the pro-partition advocacy they exist solely in the minds of outsiders who base their entire argument on far-fetched parallels to European political experiences. [complete article]
See also, Thousands of Iraqi Arabs paid to leave Kirkuk (AFP).
Editor’s Comment — In a recent interview, Iraq expert, Toby Dodge, was particularly blunt in dismissing the Biden plan. “The idea that we have three neat communities is sociologically and politically illiterate. It has deliberately ignored the sociological complexities of Iraq in order to get a neat policy prescription that allows America to get out of Iraq. That is dangerous and reckless, and it isn’t the solution.”