Partition of Iraq - the worst alternative, except for all the others?

That’s only because, by some miracle, neither Ryan_Liam, Shodan, nor Starving Artist has dropped by to tell us that the President’s plan really will achieve victory in Iraq, with liberty and ponies for all.

But yeah, it’s pretty depressing, that xtisme and I both acknowledge that the present course and partition would both be damned bad for Iraq, and the only question is which would be a worse disaster. If only we’d drink the Kool-Aid (a gramme is better than a damn, one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments), we’d be so much happier.

Maybe that’s the solution: buy up the Afghan opium crop, and distribute it freely around Iraq.

Our plans for Iraq will fail. They will fail for the reasons I predicted before the war. They will fail because they are our plans for Iraq. I would fight under arms against any odds for the rest of my life to destroy any puppet government set up in the United States by any foreign power for any reason. I would willingly conspire to assisinate quislings two decades after they fled the country if it was within my power. I am not some super patriot, but I will not allow my country to be the plaything of some foreign dictator.

Trouble is, my country is the foreign dictator.

We lost this war under George I, when we abandoned the folks on our side from Iraq, because the folks on our side in Saudi Arabia told us too. George II decided to try again. This time the folks on our side exist only in Georgie’s imagination, and the cheering section the Republican Party has supplied. After we finally leave, all the people who supported us in Iraq will be slaughtered, and they are absolutely aware of it.


Well, not all of them; many will come to America and will get deserved asylum since we are responsible for their situation. As I predicted years ago, Americans soon will get a taste of Iraqi cuisine in the future restaurants that will appear.

I can’t eat Middle Eastern food, it makes me feel awful.

But seriously folks…

Question remains whether or not we really have any control over the situation, or whether our opinion will be ignored. Our negotiating position is weak. We don’t have any more military power to “ramp up” in increments, we either go balls to the wall or we bug out. Who will listen to our good intentions and peaceful overtures given our…recent behavior? We are pretty much left with our moral leadership. Our deuce in the hole.

AFAIAC, ethnic cleansing is de facto partition, on a patchwork rather than a systematic basis. All three main factions are playing.

How is the example relevant? The Kurds seem able to defend their piece of Iraq, and don’t seem to have wildly expansionist designs with respect to Arab Iraq. The Sunnis aren’t numerous or well-armed enough to force their way very far into Shi’ite Iraq, but they’ve got well-trained fighters who will make any Shi’ite army pay for trying to drive west and north.

Exactly how would our absence make the Shi’ites stronger vis-a-vis the Sunnis?

No, we just have the “thousands being killed” part. What we don’t have is front lines of the battle, with relative peace and safety to the rear; the battle is everywhere, and increasingly ill-defined.

I postulate that for most Iraqis, a classic territorial civil war would be an improvement. Especially because we *could[/ii] put a damper on large-scale troop movements in Iraq, whether we stay there or not. We have drones and cruise missiles, we control the air over Iraq, we can do air and satellite surveillance.

What we can’t control is the small but effective battles for control of the neighborhoods of a large city. But that’s what we’d have to do to protect Iraqis in the situation as it is now.

What exactly does the government control? The ability of this government to exercise any authority outside the Green Zone appears to be almost completely dependent on us.

Certainly, absent partition. It’s almost there now, even with us having 140K troops in country.

That’s where we disagree. IMHO, a descent into an anarchy where no one force controls that much of anything, but where each local militia is at war with its neighbors several blocks away in each direction, is the absolute worst hell. No one is safe, ever, and at the end of it, a generation has been raised that has no idea of what normal life is like, and completely lacks the tools to survive in a peaceful world.

Compared to that, a civil war where Basra and Ramadi are far from the front lines is a mercy, no matter how violent the civil war gets in the contested territory.

No offense, but where are we going to get the troops from? The list of tricks and kludges we’re doing to sustain 140K troops in Iraq as is, is long and impressive. The reason we’re having to resort to turning sailors and airmen into ground troops, calling up the individual ready reserve, throwing our elite training units into the fray, recruiting skinheads and gangbangers, etc., etc., is that 140K troops in Iraq, plus 20K in Afghanistan, plus our other commitments, is already fundamentally unsustainable.

Yeah, this was why I phrased the thread title the way I did.

But our differences seem to come down to which one sees as being worse: a second-generation-style civil war between a few major factions, or the total breakdown of any large-scale authority. You see the former as being worse, while I fear the latter far more. I suspect that there’s no way to resolve that through debate. Iraq will unfortunately probably go down one of those roads, and either way it will be pretty bad.

I’ll tell you another thing that worries me. Considering the country as having three main zones of influence – Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurd – reflects to some extent the reality on the ground, but also reflects our need to simplify. In fact, the situation is more complicated, in that all of these main divisions are themselves riddled with factions. Witness the recent skirmishing between the Sadrists and the SCIRI people. In the Sunni areas, there’s tribal rivalry that was exacerbated by Saddam’s favoring his own people. The Kurds have managed to paper over their political differences, but they exist all the same. There are other people, like the Christians, Turkmen, and Marsh Arabs, who fall outside the construct almost entirely.

In the worst-case scenario, we fail to achieve unity even within the partitions we set up. Imagine the situation – a heavy American military presence, an impotent central government, and dozens of factions in an ever-shifting mosaic of alliance and enmity. We have a hard enough time identifying the bad guys now. With partition it’ll be actually impossible.

Well, I’m not sure the Kurds are playing that game right now (at least I haven’t heard that they were going after Shi’ia or Sunni in any kind of systematic manner), but certainly the other two are doing so. But they are doing so furtively, with some measure of restraint…retail instead of wholesale if you would.

Its relevant in the fact that, according to common wisdom at the time, the regime the Soviets were proping up in Afghanistan was billed to last a few weeks after they pulled out…and yet, it ended up lasting longer than the Soviets themselves. It took somethink like 7 bloody years before the Taliban finally took quasi-control. And here is the thing…from the outside, it might LOOK like there are unified Sunni and Shi’ite factions (Kurds probably are at least quasi-unified I suppose)…but inside even they are riddled with factions. Factions that, without the US there dicking around, would probably end up going for each other as well as the other guys. Just like in…Afghanistan.

It wouldn’t…what it would do is throw off what little restraint and control we are currently exerting. Right NOW there aren’t pitched battles going on in the country side between the various militias. No one is fighting at the battalion or regimental level against each other. You don’t have tanks, artilliary, large concentrations of troops, etc, battling it out…but smaller scale clashes, terrorist/insurgent type strikes, executions, etc going on. Yeah…thats bad…big battles though would be worse. And if the US wasn’t there, I’m guessing the gloves would come completely off.

We don’t have thousands being killed a day right now. We don’t have cities being sacked, pillaged, burned, etc. As I said above, we currently have violence on a retail scale…instead of on a wholesale one.

As for front lines…in these kinds of civil wars, I doubt there would BE defined lines with safe areas. Each side would be trying their best to destroy not only the enemy army in the field, but to hit their ‘safe’ areas in the rear. What you would end up with, IMHO, is both what we have now (i.e. terrorist/insurgent attacks in the ‘safe’ areas) AND battles ranging in size and destruction between militia/para-military formations. It would be…well, really REALLY bad. As opposed to just really bad, as it is now.

They control the Iraqi military…FWIW the best trained and equiped fighting force that isn’t part of the coalition in Iraq. They DO exert control outside of the Green Zone, and they DO patrol and launch military operations outside of Bahgdad. They might not exert full control, and its debatable how MUCH control they have outside the capital, but they do have some.

As for them being completely dependent…well, thats debatable too. I’d say you are mostly right though…for the most part, they are dependent on us to hold things together right now.

I disagree. WHat you see right now is classic insurgent hit and run type tactics…car bombs, roadside bombs, hit and run attacks, small scale confrontations. What you don’t see much of is large scale formations running into each other, cities being taken and retaken…stuff like that.

I’m not sure what we are disagreeing on then. I said a decent into real Civil War would be the worst possible thing that could happen. I suppose if you are of the opinion that the scenerio you painted above wouldn’t be part of the decent into all out civil war in Iraq then maybe you have a point…MY point is that your ‘decent into an anarchy where no one force controls that much of anything’ IS what could (and IMHO WOULD) occur in Iraq if we tried to partition and bolt.

No offense taken. :slight_smile: Answer: Damned if I know. As I said in earlier posts, I don’t have all the answers either. I know that if we don’t want Iraq to go tits up (well, completely tits up), we better find a way. If we have to spend more on a larger military, then we’d need to do it. If we’d need to grovel to the UN or to our Euro buddies (if it would help) then we need to do that. I don’t know what it would take…I just feel that its one of the things we really need to consider before allowing Iraq to fly apart.

As you say…there ARE no ‘good’ answers, no silver bullets to this fucked up situation. Certainly not as long as Bush et al remain in control of the WH…and maybe not even after they are gone. There are only the best of a lot of bad choices now. WHich is the best of the bad choices? Well, we both obviously see things differently there. But that they are all bad choices? I think we are in agreement at least that far. :frowning:


Yes. It proposes that the Sunni region receive 20% of all oil revenue, said revenue to be managed by the central government of Iraq.

Please click the link. It’s not a very long read, it’s really just an overview of the basic idea, but it seems pretty sound.

It’s kind of ironic that John Mace would say that Iraq is “not ours to partition” not only because it the state of Iraq was artificially created by the League of nations after WWI in the first place, but also because it is equally not our place to invade and occupy and try to impose democracy upon.

There are already Shia death squads in the Iraqi security forces targeting Sunnis. We aren’t going to able to reconcile those kinds of tribal blood feuds and it’s folly to think we’re ever going to talk them into uniting.

I also think that if anyone deserves a little autonomy, it’s the Kurds.

The Kurds ( Iraqi Kurds ) already have “a little autonomy.” A fair bit of autonomy, actually. What they don’t have is full independance.

I’m afraid I’m anti-partition as well. For several reasons:

1.) I’m in agreement with John Mace that the U.S. has no moral authority to dictate such a course of action ( they may not have had any particular moral authority to invade either, but two wrongs do not make a right ).

2.) More pragmatically it would stir up tremendous resistance. Not only an international shitstorm ( “those bloody Americans can’t maintain their authority so now they are resorting to arbitrarily slicing up a soveriegn county?” ), but a local one as well. The current government ( ex. the Kurds ) is going to be in no mood to receive this news. Iraqi nationalism may be feeble and declining, but it’s not dead. More to the point, even beyond the secular nationalists that still exist, there are numerous factions ( mainly Shi’a that can maneouver themselves into holding the political whiphand ) that have a political stake in maintaining a unitary state of some sort. About the only good that might come of such a proposal would be the temporary easing of local rivalries as they turned their fury on the U.S…

3.) While I can appreciate your opinion RTFirefly, that a nasty, bloody border war with more or less well-defined perimeters between three large factions beats an anarchic neighborhood-level struggle of everyone against everyone, I’m afraid you won’t get that. Instead I think you’ll get a nasty, bloody border war with a poorly defined perimeter PLUS an anarchic neighborhood-level struggle of everyone against everyone. Either that ot first one, then the other.

Sal Ammoniac is completely correct. Boiling this conflict down to just three factions, one ethnic and two sectarian/ethnic is a gross oversimplification. Basra won’t be behind the lines - it is already the site of a low-level civil war between rival Shi’a factions.

Further assuming ( or hoping ) that such a border war would be ugly, but mercifully brief, is more optimistic than I can bring myself to be. Quick wars are generally the result of one opponent steamrolling the other. That, I think we can all agree, would be a horrible outcome in this case. It is also unlikely. But the notion that the two sides would either quickly sort out their differences ( hah! ) or quickly realize the futility of a long grinding war where neither can gain an advantage, is not terribly realistic. People just aren’t that rational, especially when you toss long-simmering resentment and the occasional dash of sectarian tension in the mix.

Before anyone asks, I have no answers myself. I’ve long been of the “the war was a monumental blunder, but in for a dime, in for a dollar” school of thought. But the continuous cycle of failure to commit enough ( we should all be paying higher taxes to fund Iraqi reconstruction to the gills ) and screwup after screwup is bringing me close to the point of diminishing returns. It may well be that we have to do a phased withdrawal and let the country sink into hell, a truly horrific thought. But dictating a partition is still unacceptable from my POV. If you could get them to negotiate such a partition themselves…well…I don’t know that it would work, but at least it would be a local decision. But I doubt they will.

note: Xtisme - I know you know the difference, I realize it is just shorthand and I fully comprehend what you meant. But this…

… causes me to twitch with cognitive dissonance. Sunni Arabs, please - Kurds are also Sunni ( granted much more Sufi influenced and mostly Shafa’i, instead of Hanafi ), but Sunni all the same. Again, I know you know this. It’s just that seeing it written like that drives me to distraction :).

Oh and unfortunately there has been some kerfluffles with Sunni Arabs, mostly involving Kirkuk.

  • Tamerlane

That wasn’t my question. My question was, who’s going to make that 20% happen for the Sunnis? I admit I only scanned it, but it seems to presuppose a central government strong and motivated enough that it can and will make the Shi’ites and Kurds cough up if necessary.

I see that as just one more pony, along the lines of finding a new Iraqi strongman (benevolent or not) capable of ruling a unified Iraq, being able to send enough additional non-Iraqi troops to make a difference, or being able to sit Sunni and Shi’ite leaders down, telling them to “stop the bullshit,” and have that actually make a difference.

According to blogs from Iraq that I readmuch of the ,the violence is by marauding groups. The people don’t know who they are. Every day you wake up with dead and tortured bodies scatterered around the city. They wonder who funds them and what they want.They are afraid to go out We are back to warlords and cartels.
It is handy to define the violence as along religious lines ,but the reality might not support it.Local power struggles between homogeneous groups are also occurring.

IOW, twice the carnage for the same (not so) low price.

Your understanding of that part of the world is much deeper than mine, and I think I’ll yield the point to your greater knowledge of the area. But I’ve still got a few comments below.

My hope would have been that the division of Iraq into three smaller states would have simplified the (undoubtedly violent) process of realizing winners and losers within each state - that with partition, the SCIRI/Badr faction and the Sadrists would either fight it out fairly quickly, or be forced into at least a temporary armistice by the need to defend their state’s boundaries against Sunni incursions. One could also at least hope that in a Shi’ite state, Sistani might reinvolve himself and demand that the major factions in that state stop fighting each other. You’d undoubtedly have a better sense than I of whether that is a realistic possibility, and how likely or unlikely it would be that he would be heeded.

My assumption wasn’t so much that the border war would be short, so much as that no faction would be capable of going deep into another faction’s territory, which would provide relief for the portions of Iraq away from the battlegrounds. But you think that the conflicts involving smaller militias, criminal gangs, etc. would continue behind the lines, and if so, partition gains nothing while creating new problems.

I’m an offender too. I periodically try to be good about that, then I wind up sliding back into sloppiness.

Lawdy, this thread has inspired a horrid thought: perhaps the only solution is to pardon Saddam, apologize profusely, and hand the keys to the kingdom back to him.

No, I’m not suggesting we do that. But some days it looks like only a tyrant could manage a “unified” Iraq.

Who would draw the boundries. Who would police them, We do have 730 miles of fence they could borrow. Here we go again. Sounds logical on surface. No way it could be done.Fugedda about it.

:smack: Yeah, I know the difference…only because you pointed it out to me like 2 years ago in another thread dealing with this issue. I tend to get sloppy in these things, especially when I’m posting from work or between meetings.

Sorry about that…you probably think I’m particularly dense after telling me this at least twice now. :wink:


An independent Iraqi Kurdistan would piss off the governments of Turkey, Iran, and Syria to no end, and encourage their own Kurdish secessionists.

But is there a downside? :slight_smile:

Seems the Bushiviks set out to alter the political landscape in the ME. Regionwide chaos and civil war gets right to the point.

And we will fail to achieve unity in those areas. People talk of partition as if these sections were ethnically homogeneous. They are not, and that’s only a small part of it. Ignoring the more complex web of ethinic and tribal loyalties for the moment, imagine what we’d have to do to enforce such a partition. In the Kurdish areas, we’d have to aid the Kurds against the Sunni and Shi’a Arab insugency. In the Sunni Arab areas we’d have to aid the Sunni Arabs against the Kurd and Shi’a Arab insurgency. In the Shi’a Arab area we’d have to aid them agaisn the Sunni Arab and Kurdish insurgencies. But the Sunni Arabs in the Sunni Arab area would aiding the Sunni Arab insurgencies in the other two areas… And this doesn’t even take into account the issue of unequal distribution of oil reserves and the fact that every neighbor in that region would have different goals for the vairous autonomous states.