Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 1 Dangerous recipe

Dangerous recipe

THE call by the senior-most Democrat in the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for dividing Iraq into three separate regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad is the first official but implicit acknowledgement of what was predicted a decade before the US invaded the country in March 2003.
However, Joseph Biden's call, which came in a column he wrote in the New York Times, seems to take a simplistic view of the overall situation in Iraq, the country's ethnic divides and natural resources.
The objective of the proposed division is to ease the way out of Iraq for the US military (provided that the hawkish camp in Washington is indeed ready to contemplate letting the strategic prize go).
Notwithstanding the brave fronts put up by senior Bush administration officials such as Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, the reality on the ground in Iraq today is that the mighty US military is far from any meaningful control of the country.
Therefore, Biden's idea, as he himself put it, "is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralising it, giving each ethno-religious group ... room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests."
He also suggests that President George Bush "must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbours honest)."
One wonders how a "small but effective residual force" could be defined. Even with more than 150,000 soldiers present in Iraq at one point and the use of advanced technology and ruthlessness, the US military could not contain the insurgency.
It seems that Biden is suggesting an Afghanistan-like arrangement in Iraq. Let the Iraqis deal with the worsening crises in the urban areas while the US military — with no commitment to intervene to ensure security —  sticks around with a scaled down force in the countryside hunting for "terrorists" but not really making a difference. At the same time, the US military retains the capability to intervene in any situation where Washington finds its interests being threatened. Isn't that what is happening Afghanistan?
Biden and other likeminded American politicians should learn a little bit more about Iraq and its people before coming up with such suggestions. A simplified version of history would be that the country was a colonial creation that bound together communities which did not want to remain together but had no choice. The US invasion unravelled those bindings. The communities which now find themselves free from all bindings want to go their own way. Maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq is not a priority for them. Therefore, Biden's suggestion, if accepted and implemented for whatever reason, is the perfect recipe for the country to splinter along sectarian lines, with no one in Baghdad or anywhere else in control, common interests or no common interests.