Not Even The Sunnis Want Partition

We have heard plenty of people talk about the idea of splitting Iraq into three autonomous cantons in order to allow each of the three main demographics groups to run a portion of the country. Senator Joe Biden has pushed this idea for months, claiming it to be the only way out of Iraq. Recently, Sam Brownback endorsed that plan and wants to team up with Biden to present it to the Senate. According to the plan’s advocates, a partition will provide the only framework for enabling the Sunnis, which has a lower level of population than the majority Shi’a or the already-transitioned Kurds.
However, the leader of the Sunnis in the Iraqi National Assembly has threatened to walk out and take his coalition with him until the Iraqi government rejects this notion completely:
Iraq’s top Sunni official has set a deadline of next week for pulling his entire bloc out of the government — a potentially devastating blow to reconciliation efforts within Iraq. He also said he turned down an offer by President Bush to visit Washington until he can count more fully on U.S. help.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi made his comments in an interview with CNN. He said if key amendments to the Iraq Constitution are not made by May 15, he will step down and pull his 44 Sunni politicians out of the 275-member Iraqi parliament.
“If the constitution is not subject to major changes, definitely, I will tell my constituency frankly that I have made the mistake of my life when I put my endorsement to that national accord,” he said.
Specifically, he wants guarantees in the constitution that the country won’t be split into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish federal states that he says will disadvantage Sunnis.

As I have said for months, partition would be a disaster for the Sunnis. They have a chance to participate in a meaningful manner in a united Iraq, but a partition would trade a small interest in a large profit pool for a whole interest in nothing at all. They would find themselves locked out of any meaningful control over the natural resources of Iraq, and they know full well that a Swiss style of federalism will mean that the Kurds and Shi’a could walk away with all of the oil revenue at any time.
We need to stop encouraging this proposal. The Sunnis will not agree to it, no matter how many guarantees we and the Maliki government make about the security of the oil revenue. They want to see an integrated Iraq, not a canton system that will allow the country to spin apart into three pieces. The Sunnis also mistrust Iran and their influence on the Shi’ites — as should we.
The next time Biden insists on this answer, ask him which Iraqis want to see their country undergo the Munich treatment.

11 thoughts on “Not Even The Sunnis Want Partition”

  1. One small correction, Ed: significant oil deposits were recently found in Anbar — the Sunni “Wild West” of Iraq. Thus may have their own source of revenue in a few years. But, I agree, Biden and Brownback are arrogant fools for pushing this idea.

  2. One small point for the Senators Biden and Brownback: Iraq makes it’s own laws.
    To make it more clear: The United States has no power to change the laws in Iraq, outside of using the Military to dispose of the current government in Iraq.
    Implication: When Senators Biden and/or Brownback promote this insanity, they are advocating the armed overthrow of a United States ally.
    Question: why haven’t the Main Stream Media asked the Senators why they are advocating the armed overthrow of Iraq after we just helped that government create itself through a Democratic Voting process? Has anybody actually thought this through, or are they just ignoring these idiots to the point that nobody is really listening to them other than the Press?
    My God… what is IN the water in Washington D.C. ?!?
    (Side note: I had to sign in using TypeKey… your new system asked for the name of the current President, and would not accept “George Bush” or George W. Bush” as valid answers. Oddly, for the first time on CQ, TypeKey accepted my sign in first try. Go figure.)

  3. Ed Morrisey writes:
    “The next time Biden insists on this answer, ask him which Iraqis want to see their country undergo the Munich treatment.”

  4. The Kurds may want a Bosnian/Munich solution, but let’s remember that from the beginning that the split solution to Iraq was never an option under any circumstances.
    Turkey has said from day one that an independent Kurdistan will invite almost immediate military action. Both countries would be thrown into chaos. Now let’s add to that a Shi’ite terror state controlled by Iran and a Sunni proxy state controlled by Saudi Arabia, and then let them go at it in a proxy war that will become a regional nightmare. Pakistan is 80% Sunni, they’ll join in, and they have nukes. The Afghans are 75% Sunni or so too.
    India, Israel, and the Gulf States won’t stand by and do nothing either. A split Iraq would turn into a regional catastrophe within months, an order of magnitude worse than anything we’re seeing now.
    Getting out of Iraq like that is not a serious plan. It’s a joke. Brownback and Biden should be publicly ridiculed for it.

  5. Lightwave,
    I’m not in favor of partitioning Iraq. But why should Turkey be able to threaten military action should Iraqis agree that the Kurdish region of Iraq be an independent nation? Did Germany declare war on the Czech Republic when the Czech Republic peacefully separated from Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia)?
    Why does Turkey think that it can tell a neighboring parliament, freely elected by its people, what it can and can not do?
    Certainly there are good reasons for Iraq to remain on nation. But the decion should be Iraq’s decision and Turkey should have zero say in the matter.

  6. How can the minority Sunnis dictate anything in Iraq? This government is too splintered to ever become a united country. Just more billions and American blood so Bush can bluster how he’s bringing “freedom” to the Middle East. Looks like Boehner is going off the reservation on Iraq, I see a mass exit of republicans to follow. IMO Bush has no loyalty to his own party or to anybody.

  7. Conservative Democrat:
    “How can the minority Sunnis dictate anything in Iraq?”
    The Iraqis have chosen a Parliamentary system of Government, rather than follow our example and create a Democratic Republic. The Sunnis are a part of the ruling Government alliance. Tariq al-Hashimi has threatened to pull all of the Sunni members out of the alliance, causing the current government to lose the majority they need to run the country.
    If al-Hashimi pulls out, Iraq’s current Government would fail to hold a majority… new elections will almost immediately become mandatory.
    The smaller the majority a ruling alliance has, the more subject the Government is to it’s minority members. If the Sunnis had not joined the majority alliance, then it would be just so much gas. But… the Sunnis are in fact members of the current majority alliance, and have enough members to bring the current President of Iraq down by pulling out.

  8. “conservative” democrat forgot to say “Bush lied, people died!” Be careful, dude… will cut off your allowance if you don’t chant the mantra.

  9. Unfortunately, wherever you have sunni’s, you have problems. You have problems in Eygpt. Kept under the despotic thumb of Mubarak. Who intends to pass on the Pharaoh’s chair to his son. And, then beyond. As far as the line can go. Must eyptians are too poor. And, easily rabble-roused. So, NOTHING is working towards common sense.
    But the hatreds in ht Mideast? Oh, boy.
    Billions have been spent by the Saudis, to bring terror to Iraq. It wasn’t this way, by the way, when Tommy Franks first blew through. For about ten months after Saddam’s regime fell; the going about business was fine. THEN? Paul Bremer tossed out anyone ever connect to Saddam. Without realizing that nobody worked in Iraq, who wasn’t a member of Saddam’s party. PERIOD.
    So, the fool, Paul Bremer, spent a year, destroying everything.
    While Chalabi, who had goons trained by the CIA, managed to get off the C-130’s on the wrong foot. And, the Iraqis want no part of him.
    Nor did it seem they wanted America’s “hand picked” leader, ALLAWI.
    Arabs are pretty good at deceit. They’re not going to share with you what they are thinking. But taking Westerners over the barrel, and fleecing them; has been practiced for hundreds of years. They do this with smiles on their faces. And, offers of coffee. And, they cry you a river on how they are losing on the sale. But you’re their friend for life. BULL SHIT.
    Now, if only we could’a had this war in Italy; everybody would’a been happy. And, our soldiers would have been thrilled to visit around the countryside.
    Ain’t so in I-R-A-K. Let me tell ya. (And, now Lott is saying “timetable.” So what do we know out here?)
    Today’s Jerusalem Post has an article, titled “Bush is obsessed with getting a military victory in Iraq.”
    Doubt that’s even possible. Since if you’re at war you don’t go in short of troops. And, hope the kids kick ass, while also staying on their bases. Being there is like being in a space ship. With visits “out” having you tethered as much as possible, not to suffer from the debris that flies about “out’ta space.”
    It hasn’t been a success.
    Yup. Saddam had WMD’s. Supplied by our CIA through the 1980’s. Where early enough it became apparent he wasn’t much of a battlefield strategist.
    And, where did that stuff go? Nobody knows.
    The HOUSE OF BUSH / THE HOUSE OF SAUD goes over this stuff in great detail. Where even Bob Woodward’s 1980’s book about the CIA, VEIL, misses a lot of the stuff that should have been known then. But was well hidden.
    So far all bets are off on Iraqi independende. IF they can stand, alone? I doubt if the Sunnis will be part of parliament. Separate from the hokum of rejecting elections; they also don’t show up, where they are given seats to participate. But they made it easy for the terrorists to enter the building.
    The Kurds already use a separation device. Since walls have such a bad name, they’ve dug deep. A ravine you can’t jump across. And, it probably works better, too. But you get none of the picturesque photos of walls and midgets.
    Nothing would have happened in Iraq, if the Saud’s hadn’t signed off on it!
    Ah. And, today’s results from the French elections are very, very interesting. Whatever the “business” of the past has been, all new players bring their own interpretations to the roles. Even when they’re doing Shakespeare.
    The other thing to realize? For the Iraqis, IF they could only trust us NOT TO BE PERVEYORS FOR THE SAUD’S? I think we could see them becoming a regional power in their own right. But not t’marra. First comes the changes. The building of infrastrucure. And, if we’re very, very lucky? Abner Dinnerjacket goes to the cleaners.
    THere’s so much wealth within the Mideast pocket. But there won’t be anything there at all if Islam keeps to its extremes. And, the people don’t fight back.
    We just don’t know the future.

  10. Hey Joe, partition the country. Yea, that’s the answer. Partition a country which was created out of parts of the Ottoman Empire without regard to the separate groups then included in that country. Just the ticket. An outside agency will decide what’s best for these people, ’cause after all, they can’t decide for themseves. Dang, why didn’t I think of that?
    We now have yet another example of why they call him “Slow Joe” Biden. And it sounds like Brownback is trying to horn in on the title. Which of them is the bigger dufus?

  11. Cap’n, your headline is misleading.
    Sunnis have never been for the partition. Kurds and the Shia are the ones who have pushed this plan. The Kurds are happy in the north, where they are essentially already partitioned.
    The Shia would get the oil-rich south, which they’d be more than happy with. Sunnis would be left with the west, which does not have a lot of oil.
    Biden recognizes this and say it needs to be addressed as part of the partition process:
    Biden and co-writer Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledged the opposition, and said the Sunnis “have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

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