Sunday, December 11, 2005

Iraq – Beyond December 15, 2005

It is unlikely that Bush Administration would take cognizance of such serious articles like:

- “Shattering Iraq” by Paul Starobin in National Journal Friday, Dec. 9, 2005
(http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/1209nj1.htm) and

- “The elections in Iraq” Juan Cole interview by Eric Black, Star Tribune December 8, 2005 at 2:35 PM
(http://www.startribune.com/stories/722/5771424.html)

Starobin argues that as far as the current situation in Iraq is considered, it is difficult to conclude anything different than civil war. It may be unusual in nature, nevertheless it is a civil war. One cannot but help to agree with him. Juan Cole is pointing to the reality that Iraq after December 15 election in all likelihood is going to be more hostile to Administration than what the Administration is ready for. American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad no doubt brings the reality check to White House and is doing a yeoman’s job; but today’s Iraq and American entanglement in that is much more complex and multifaceted issue requiring sophisticated and honest approach from the Administration. It is not coming is well known.

What happens immediately after the election? Based on the informed opinion of Juan Cole, Shiite group would mostly get the majority and Kurds would loose some seats to Sunni. This in itself unlikely to put an end to the insurgency and violence on the ground. Considering the increased importance and subsequent consolidation by Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi Peking order; American presence in Iraq is likely to face more music. In fact it will be unlikely that Bush Administration can hold the current troops level there after. The reduction in American forces as expected would be one more reason why the violence is unlikely to go away very easily after the election.

The only point of interest at that time will be whether there will be sufficient number of Sunni elected members who would feel the spoils of power as an enough reason to go away from the extremist Sunni factions who resort to violence as the retaliation of loss of Sunni power in Iraq. The case on the surface looks to be that and there in lies the realistic chance of continuation of Iraq as an one single country without divisions. It will be a weak state, but in that it may be able to avoid the immediate break up. However, this still does not guarantee the long term success of the Iraqi State and it still faces many odds. If the violence is not stopped at some point, the integrity of Iraq will eventually come into question again. That will be like simply prolonging the violent transition of Iraq to a set of divided states.

If this is to be avoided, then Peter Galbraith style approach of dividing Iraq into 3 separate ministates – Kurdistan, Shiite dominated Southern Iraq and Baghdad centered Sunni middle Iraq – may be an option. Should Bush Administration actively pursue such a strategy? Today, it may be early. But after giving sufficient rope to the attempts to maintain Iraqi unity; there may be a time in future when such a bitter pill will have to be taken by America if nothing else works. The only question then will be what could America do so that Sunnistan does not bring Saudi Arabia on it’s side against Shiite Iraq (with Iran on it’s side) to start a total regional war. Needless to say that will bring Israel in picture too and it will be a doomsday scenario not only for that Middle East but for the World Economy as well since oil will soar past $100 at that point. Sunnistan will be aggravated for a simple reason that it will not have any resource base to sustain as a State – no oil, land locked ministate surrounded by other hostile ministates. To address this issue one thing which comes to mind is - may be America pay money to Sunnistan to kick start the economy; America underwrites that ministate and compensate for the loss of oil money. Money will be of the order of what the current Iraq war costs and the advantage will be no further loss of American blood. Also may be America persuades Saudi Arabia to foot some bill of helping Sunnistan.

Further two other conditions America and World in general will need to ensure are:
- Turkey keeps her hands off the Kurdistan and
- there is a ‘solid wall’ erected between Southern Shiite Iraq and Iran.
Controlling Turkey is doable since gaining access to EU requires Turkey demonstrates restrain in the Kurdish issue. The latter part is difficult – what do you mean by ‘solid wall’? The goal is how to avoid Shiite Iraq to collude with Iran to emerge as a destabilizing force with access to vast oil riches? That one is a hard nut to crack with no apparent instruments at hand for America and international community. That is a true unknown of post December 15 period.

But may be America will be spared from such a nightmare scenario if Sunni participation increases and Iraq starts to function as a one single country instead of multiple ministates. Notwithstanding all the visible problems, possibility of such a scenario is higher today than few months back.


Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
December 11, 2005.

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