U.S. weighs plan to make Iraq (WORLD TRIBUNE) 05/17/05)
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The United States has been quietly mulling the prospect that Iraq
would break up into autonomous regions.
The Council on Foreign Relations, which usually reflects State
Department thinking, has recommended the restructuring of Iraq into
six states under a single national government. The council, in a
report entitled "Power-Sharing in Iraq," warned that even with
elections an Iraq led by a strong central government might not be
Officials said the Bush administration has been discussing options
for Iraq following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2007, Middle
East Newsline reported. They said without a strong military presence
the central government in Baghdad could lose or cede control to
"It is about the distribution of political power through
institutions and laws that guarantee accountable rule," author David
Phillips wrote. "In the new Iraq, federal Iraqi states should
control all affairs not explicitly assigned to the federal
Phillips, a former adviser to the U.S. government, proposed the
establishment of two or three states dominated by Shi´ites. Another
state would be comprised of mostly Sunnis and a third state would be
Kurdish. Baghdad would be a separate state.
"Consistent with the principle of decentralisation, federal Iraqi
state and local authorities should have the ability to adopt laws
that conform to local custom," the report said.
So far, the Bush administration has been increasingly unhappy over
the failure by the new government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari
to impose control. Suicide car bombings have been at an all-time
high and the government remains divided along both political and
"The perception of governance is important," Gen. George Casey, the
commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, said.
Officials cited the increasing tension among Kurds, Sunnis and
Shi´ites amid efforts to establish a government. They said the Kurds
have been the most advanced in efforts to set up an independent
region or state. In January 2005, Kurdish authorities held a
referendum on whether to establish an independent state in northern
Iraq. About 95 percent supported this demand. "Kurdish leaders —
possibly at odds with mainstream Kurdish opinion — have said that,
for now, they will not push for independence," the Congressional
Research Service said in a March 2005 report. "This stance is likely
to ease the concerns of Turkey, as well as Syria and Iran, which
have substantial Kurdish populations."
Already, Kurdistan has been seen as the most stable area of Iraq and
has been attracting foreign business meant for Baghdad. The Iraqi-
American Chamber of Commerce and Industry plans plans to hold a
conference in October in Kurdistan for 240 firms that seek to invest
in the Kurdish areas. The autonomous Kurdish government has signed
70 contracts with foreign companies and executed 25 projects worth
At the same time, Shi´ite politicians have been excluding Sunnis
from the Jaafari government. Shi´ites have also been pressing
Jaafari for a purge of the civil service to remove those aligned
with the former Saddam regime.
The effort has been in reaction to efforts by Sunni groups to target
Shi´ite communities in Iraq in an attempt to foment a civil war
based on ethnic lines. Officials said an increasing number of
Shi´ites are mulling the prospect of an autonomous Shi´ite region in
central and southern Iraq.
"In the best case, Iraq would become a federation with strong
autonomous regional governments and a central authority in Baghdad
responsible for external defense," an official said. "In the worst-
case scenario, Iraq would break up into rival ethnic regions, each
aligned with an outside power."
Each of the major ethnic groups have a large militia infrastructure.
The Kurds have the largest militia force, with 50,000 trained
Officials said the Kurds are followed by the Shi´ites, with more
than 20,000 fighters, and then the Sunnis, who can count on elements
of the former Saddam Hussein regime.
"It´s a subject that is not a priority for the coalition because of
the Sunni insurgency," an official said. "But it is clear that once
U.S. troops leave Iraq, the presence of ethnic militias will become
The council plans to translate the report into Arabic and distribute
it to the Iraqi government and parliament. The report cited
challenges such as the sharing of Iraq´s huge oil reserves, which
are mostly along the southern border with Iraq and the northern
border with Turkey. The central region has no known oil reserves.
The report recommends that Baghdad should retain a portion of oil
revenues for operations. The balance should be distributed to the
federal states on the basis of population.
Phillips said a federated Iraq could work only if each group cedes
power or plans.
"For this to happen, hard choices must be made: Arab Shi´ites will
have to forego demands for Islamic law as the only basis for
legislation; Arab Sunnis must accept that they no longer control
Iraq´s institutions," the report said. "Iraqi Kurds must forego
their dream of independence and sole control of oil in Kirkuk; and
Iraqi Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrians must recognize that they reside
in federal Iraqi states where Arabs and Kurds constitute the
Officials said the State Department was aware of the report but
would not endorse a decision meant to be taken by Iraqis. Still,
they said the question of Iraq´s future and structure would be the
key issues in the drafting of a constitution, given an Aug. 15
deadline. So far, work on the constitution has not even begun.
"If a draft is not ready by June 30, 2005, the Iraqi government
should convene the assembly and consider a delay of up to six
months," Phillips said.
The prospect of a united Iraq appears to be linked to how long the
United States would be prepared to keep its forces in the Arab
country. Many analysts agree that a withdrawal in 2006 would plunge
the country into chaos. They cite a National Intelligence Council
report that Iraq could be dominated by terrorist groups the way
Afghanistan was until the U.S. invasion in 2001.
"Only an Iraqi government that possesses a relative monopoly on the
means of violence can prevent this outcome," Lawrence Kaplan, a
senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said. "Alas, Iraq´s security
forces are nowhere near their goal of fielding sufficient numbers of
police, national guard, and soldiers. In the meantime, then, either
the U.S. military will fill the gap or no one will. (Copyright ©
2005 East West Services, Inc 05/17/05)
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