Leon Hadar: Iraq: The Shape of Things to Come


From One State to Three “Virtual States”
If only grandmother had four wheels: If you believe the front-page report from Iraq in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that “U.S. opens door for big pullback in Iraq next year,” then I’ll sell you a bridge over the Euphrates. The news from Baghdad, highlighting one of those “surprise visits” by the Secretary of the Department of Regime Change, Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad, quotes him and U.S. Commander in Iraq George Casey saying, suggesting, implying and hinting that the U.S. was laying the groundwork for a “substantial” withdrawal next spring. Mm… Let me see. Isn’t that when the midterm election campaigns are beginning to gain momentum? In any case, Casey, according to the Journal added several conditions or “qualifications,” stressing that the U.S. military in Iraq would be able to take those “substantial reductions” if “the political process continues to go positively” and if “the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going [and how is it going? LH],” while Rumsfeld, according to the New York Times, said that troop withdrawal “hinged” on the following: The size and strength of the insurgency; the level of cooperation from Syria and Iran; the ability of the Iraqi security forces; Iraqi public support for the new government; and, oh, yes, on whether Courtney Love and Paris Hilton join a convent… Which recalls an old Jewish saying: If my grandmother had four wheels, she would be a carriage… And not to forget that the Bush Administration had already been able to fool Congress and others with the commitment to pursue diplomacy and not to go to war against Iraq “if” Saddam would only did this or that. So don’t hold your breath. American troops will be “over there” for many years to come, and I’m not talking here about the new FX series (BTW, thumbs down for that show as far as I’m concerned; I would have switched to “CSI: NY” but it was a repeat).
Here is what’s going to happen in Iraq: First, neither the Americans nor the insurgents are going to win a ‘victory’ in Iraq. Second, a political ‘solution’ to Iraq that would maintain its territorial integrity under a central government is not a realistic option. American policymakers should consider the above as political axioms and come up with an interim agreement that could provide Iraq with an opportunity to bring some stability to the country and begin its economic reconstruction. So the best-case-scenario should be based on the recognition that the least costly option will be to freeze the status quo in which Iraq is gradually being divided into three mini-states — a mostly Kurdish region in the north, a mostly Shiite area in the south, and the Sunni Triangle .
The Kosovo Model: Consider the reality in post-war Kosovo – with its Albanian majority and Serbian minority – which has been transformed into an international protectorate, although it still remains part of Serbia. Kosovo cannot achieve the status of an independent state – since Serbia and its ally Russia backing the Serbian minority in Kosovo will oppose such a move and also because concerns that an independent Kosovo would ignite pressure for secession of the Albanian minority in Macedonia and produce momentum for the establishment of a Greater Albania. At the same time, the return of Kosovo to full Serbian control is rejected by the Albanian majority and their supporters in the West. Hence the willingness to accept the current arrangement of a ‘virtual’ Kosovo mini-state. It’s not a permanent ‘solution’ but Serbs and Albanians are not killing each other and there is some effort to establish political stability and to economically reconstruct Kosovo.
The Hadar Plan: The conditions in Mesopotamia resemble those in the Balkans under which three Kosovos could emerge in Iraq. Such a scheme will not resemble the Bush dministration’s let’s-make-the-Middle-East-safe-for-democracy fantasies, and will require that the US launch a process of diplomatic detente with Iran, one of the three major regional players in Iraq – the two other being Turkey and Syria. Hence negotiations between the US, Iran and the Iraqi Shiite leadership whose members have close political and religious ties to the regime in Teheran could lead to an agreement in which Washington and Teheran could provide security to the Shiite region under an informal Iranian-American condominium. A similar accord between the Kurds, the US and Turkey could allow the Kurdish region to continue to maintain its political autonomy while giving Ankara guarantees that the Kurds will not demand full political independence, will share control of oil rich Kirkuk and will grant full rights to the Turkoman minority. Finally, when it comes to the troubled Sunni Triangle, the US could encourage the members of the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria to police the country and its borders and help establish a new Iraqi-Sunni leadership. The United Nations and the EU could also provide peacekeeping troops to help maintain order in the Sunni region. As part of the arrangement, the oil resources of Iran could come under the control of an international trust which the three Iraqi communities will be represented. The creation of three ‘virtual’ mini states in Iraq should be regarded as an interim arrangement that will lead to a separation of sorts between the three contending players and create conditions in which foreign investment could start flowing into the country, while oil will start flowing from Iraq into the global markets and some of the American troops could start withdrawing from the country. After a transition period of, say, five to ten years, during which Iraq would become more stable and prosperous, the Iraqi people will have an opportunity to decide whether they want to re-establish a central government or to divide the country into two or three sovereign states.
Bye, bye: And now before leaving for Iraq and other world capitals to implement this great plan, I want to thank Steve Clemons — he is Washington’s most original “Policy Entrepreneur” — for hosting me on his blog for two days and also to thank Dave Meyer for making this thing work. Perhaps one of these days I’ll launch my own blog. Meanwhile you can contact me at LeonHadar@aol.com. And please get a copy of my new book (well, buy one), Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. I hope to get your feedback.
Leon Hadar