Why hold on to a single Iraq when the country is splitting along sectarian lines?
Iraq is already broken in two. The Kurds are off on their own. They don’t allow any other militias except their own in their section of Iraq: no Iraqi police there. They have their own elections, democratic institutions, free media, secular society, and although still terribly tribal, they are really a model of what America wanted to do with Iraq. America helped them be what they’ve become even while Saddam was in power, by keeping the Kurds free from his influence when they established a no-fly no-intervention zone there.
So, we could get out of Iraq and point to the Kurds as a great American success. Jeez, they even love us, perhaps the only bunch besides the Israelis in the Middle East who do.
We might as well apply the same approach to the rest of Iraq: let them split the country between the Sunnis and the Shiites so they don’t have to fight each other. The only problem will be Baghdad, where there are Sunnis and Shiites stuck together in the same city, although they are fast settling down in separate areas, because you risk being killed if you are a Shiite in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood and vice versa.
But there is a precedent for this: the old Berlin when Germany was split in two. Baghdad could become the Berlin of two neighboring states, a place shared by Sunnis and Shiites, each with their own municipality, and each tied to a relationship with the two Iraqi Sunni and Shiite countries.
If we do allow Iraq to split in three, it will be a totally new thing that we can end up being very proud of, since we will be seen as redressing the ills of colonialism. After all, one of the terrible legacies of Western colonialism was that countries were arbitrarily made up, with borders established for Western convenience, which meant yanking different ethnicities together into single countries. Most of the problems in Africa are caused by this artificial creation of countries without regard to sectarian and tribal integrity.
This would be a great exit strategy and an easy salve for our own sense of achievement: we would’ve liberated three ethnicities instead of one country, and helped three new countries to democracy.
It would also be something those three countries, as well as the rest of the Middle East, might be able to thank us for.
We’d win the hearts and minds of three ethnicities instead of inducing another Arab country to hate us.Powered by Sidelines