Break up Iraq
Ah, so this is how leading from behind is done. President Obama inherits a war we had won and just needing a status-of-forces agreement only now a mystery thug who is supposed to be even worse than Bin Laden has conquered large sections of both Iraq and Syria! It’s as if somebody woke up one day in 1946 to learn the Nazis had taken over Berlin and were headed to Paris.
As nonexistent as the Obama strategy for the Middle East has been, you could say it was started off with a pretty miserable Bush non-strategy as well. The nations of this region are riven with bitter ethnic divisions and have absurd colonial-era borders. Col. Ralph Peters’ map showing the true national boundaries of the area sets out in stark detail just how screwy the current lines are. President Bush and his advisers unfortunately did not have the courage to insist on either a partition of Iraq, or at least a Swiss-style confederation when we occupied that country. The same for Afghanistan. It also has not helped that we have allowed Iran to continue to terrorize much of the Shia portion of Iraq in a bid to undo everything we have accomplished.
Even with all that, decent Iraqis trusted us enough to make the Sunni Awakening a success and fight off the most serious challenge up till then to Iraqi peace. But Obama, in his rush to get us out of the war we had won in Iraq, could not be bothered making sure the Sunnis were treated fairly in the aftermath; and so now the full-scale Sunni/Shia civil war is here.
I suggest at this point it is too late to worry about some kind of autonomy or federal solution for Iraq. Let’s go with history, not against it. Recognize three new countries -- a Sunni west, Kurdish north, and Shia south. If the western portion was truly an independent country, I think we could easily get the Saudis and other Sunni countries to back a pan-Arab peacekeeping force to throw out the radicals and set up a new, non-threatening government there. If we can do that, why stop there? Eastern Syria is already a no-man’s land -- split it up between the new West Iraq and Kurdistan. Let the Alawites, Druze, and Christians have the Syrian coast. The Russians may even back us on that.
Turkey has traditionally opposed an independent Kurdistan but that thinking has undergone a sea change. The Turks now know they have tremendous influence if their neighbors to the south are smaller, more cohesive units, not the big, unstable dictatorships of the past. They would welcome a breakup of Syria and Iraq. They may even okay the addition of the Iranian parts to the new Kurdistan, which would mean the doom of the mullah regime in Iran.
Sure, this all sounds grandiose and impractical, but where have all the half-measures and muddling- through of the last two decades gotten us? Thousands of American soldiers have died and trillions of tax dollars were spent to attain some sort of peace and freedom. Yet such a result seems more unlikely every day. It is far past time to look at some new ideas. In the end, it may even be inevitable the maps of the Middle East are redrawn. Let’s hope if this happens, it isn’t on one of our President’s many vacation days.
Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, KY.