Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Iraq: A Country Never Meant to be Falls Apart

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Iraq is now on the verge of full-blown sectarian warfare pitting religious sects and ethnic groups against each other in a country that was never meant to be.  A country cobbled together by British and French colonial interests, using the remnants of the Ottoman Empire that they had captured during World War I and subsequently divided amongst themselves.  As was usually the case when drawing colonial borders, neither Britain nor France cared about whether or not the different groups that were forcibly incorporated into Iraq wanted to be part of the new country in the first place.  In fact, what is now Iraq was originally governed as three separate provinces under Ottoman rule: Mosul in the north, Baghdad in the centre and Basra in the south.  These former provinces roughly correspond to the main ethno-religious divides in Iraq today: Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs in the centre and Shiite Arabs in the south.  This history was once referenced on the Saddam Hussein era Iraqi flag, which featured three stars representing the three former Ottoman provinces.

There have been several regime changes since Iraq was first created, but they all had one thing in common: They could only keep the country together by force.  Saddam Hussein was Iraq's last dictator.  When the U.S. and her allies toppled him in 2003, they got rid of the glue that held the country together.  Not surprisingly, the ethnic and religious tensions that had long simmered under Saddam's ruthless dictatorship resurfaced once he was removed from power.  Only Western military might prevented the country from coming apart - barely.  But now, there are no Western troops in Iraq.  Now, the Iraqis are on their own and there's no one to stop the country's different religious sects and ethnic groups from going at each other's throats with the intent of ruthlessly slaughtering one another.  So not surprisingly, Iraq's Shiite-dominated government is now fighting a brutal war with Sunni militias, the largest of which is ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a group of Islamic extremists that some people describe as being more extreme than Al-Qaeda.  In the meantime, the Kurds in the north are consolidating their de facto independence as Iraqi forces flee further south for what may be a final showdown with Sunni militias in Baghdad.  There is only one way to stop, or at least slow, what will no doubt be a heinous bloodbath: Recognize that Iraq is a product of colonialism that was never meant to exist and allow Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds go their own separate ways.

Partition is the Only Solution:

As ISIS and other Sunni militias advance towards Baghdad, the international community is struggling to come up with some kind of solution that will keep Iraq united.  But this is a futile effort.  The only plausible solution is to partition the failed Iraqi state into three separate countries.  The north for the Kurds, the centre for the Sunnis and the south for the Shiites.  The exact borders will have to be determined through negotiation between the parties concerned, but ultimately, each of the main groups will have self-determination and one will not be able to control the other.  This is the only way peace can exist, if only on a temporary basis, between the various religious and ethnic groups, for if they cannot live together in peace, then they must live separately.  Besides, they never wanted to live together anyway. 


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