Sunday, November 19, 2006

Satterfield and Abizaid say partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / strongman-led Sunni region

On November 15, 2006, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton questioned David M. Satterfield, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and General John P. Abizaid, U.S. Army Commander, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the subject of partition in Iraq, among other matters.

David M. Satterfield

"MR. SATTERFIELD: Senator, with respect to partition, I'd like to be very clear on this. Partition in Iraq could only be achieved at an expense of human suffering and bloodshed and forced dislocation that would be both profound and wholly
unacceptable, I believe, to the American people. It is wholly unacceptable to this administration. The mixed communities of Iraq are found throughout the country. There is no easy map that can be drawn, no easy political decision that can be taken that would not involve death and suffering to achieve partition.
But more importantly than my views is that very, very few in Iraq wish to see partition as an outcome. Even the Kurdish leadership who enjoy a federal status within Iraq don't want to see partition. They view that as a threat to their interests because of the instability that it would produce on their borders. This is simply not an option. It's not a practical option. It's not a moral option." [1]

If partition would cause the high amount of death and suffering that Satterfield seems to be implying, then it should not be attempted. But I don't believe his assertions are necessarily true. Nor do I believe that dislocation and mixed communities are unresolvable issues. (see Saudi ambassador and Mixed cities.)

If few Iraqis want partition, then they would have to be convinced that despite any legitimate concerns they might have, partition would be in their best interest. If they could not be persuaded, then partition should not be forced on them.

As for the Kurds, I'm not sure how partition would cause instability on their borders. Such a view might assume that partition would fail. I can only repeat that I don't believe that it would necessarily fail and refer you to the above links. Though I have heard that some of Iraq's neighbors, including Kurdistan's neighbor, Turkey, don't want partition for Iraq because they feel that it might cause various sects in their countries to want their own regions as well. If this is what's being referred to then I suppose that Iraq will have to use diplomacy to try and calm any fears their neighbors might have. Iraq might say that they will not do anything to encourage demands of independence by sects in those countries. Or that partition is being done to try to stabilize their country which should in turn help avoid destabilizing their neighbors in that sense. Given the intractability of Iraq's problems, asking for a little patience and understanding from their neighbors does not seem like an unreasonable request.

Also, the Kurds supported Iraq's recent federalism law, so there must be some aspects of or forms of partition that they support for all of Iraq. If this is true, then there must be room for negotiation with the Kurds regarding some form of partition as a potential solution for Iraq that they would support.

If America partitioned Iraq and believed that it would result in disaster, then I agree that partition would not be a moral act and should not be attempted. Though as I said above, I don't believe that it would necessarily be a disaster. I don't know for certain, of course. And in the end, it's Satterfield, with his superior knowledge and experience on the subject as well as his position of power, who will influence what path will be taken by Iraq.

General John P. Abizaid

"GEN. ABIZAID: Senator Clinton, I believe that partition is not viable for Iraq. I can't imagine in particular how a Sunni state could survive. I believe it would devolve into an area where al Qaeda would have safe haven, where they would export their terror to the surrounding countries. I believe that the Shi'a state would be decidedly subject to the domination of Iraq -- of Iran -- excuse me -- and that that would not be good for the region. It would start to move the region into Sunni-Shi'a tensions that the region hasn't seen for a long time." [1]

I feel that the Sunnis would have a good chance at success in ruling their own region. After all, they were the ruling sect for the entire country of Iraq for over 25 years during the Saddam Hussein years. There region may, however, be more problematic than the other potential regions since most of the insurgents are Sunni and al Qaeda seems to be stationed in their region as well. Hopefully, the Sunnis, if given their own region to rule, will turn away from the insurgents and al Qaeda and devote their energies to rebuilding their lives. If this doesn't occur, then the Sunni region may have to be contained until the Sunnis changed their minds, if ever. Not a pleasant thought, but not much different than now, I believe. And at least the Kurds and the Sunnis could have better lives for themselves. Though they'd have to be convinced to try partition first, since Satterfield says that most of them don't want it.

Also, if the Sunnis are the main problem, only their region might need to be partitioned. So good news for the Kurds and Shiites.

On the other hand, if the Sunni region were to be the sole recipient of containment or partition, then the Sunnis might not agree to partition as a solution for Iraq and the requirement of consent mentioned above may be lost. So special efforts of persuasion would have to be used with the Sunnis. Recently, it was reported that many Sunnis wanted a strongman for Iraq as a solution for Iraq's problems. The Shiites favored another solution. (see Strongman) Maybe if the Sunnis were told that if they agreed to partition, they could choose a strongman as leader of their region they would support partition. A strongman leading the Sunni region might also solve the insurgent and al Qaeda problems since those two groups seem to be based in that region. Though the Sunnis might not favor a strongman if he only ruled their region.

And concerning the potential Iranian problem, diplomacy will have to be tried again. If diplomacy doesn't seem feasible, then I would have to question whether Iran would truly dominate the Shi'a region. Though they're both Shiites, Iraq is Arab Shiite and Iran is Persian Shiite, so while there is commonality, there are also differences. And the Iraqi Shiites would be economically independent because of their oil revenue. They're not like Hezbollah in that sense. And the Iraqi Shiites would still be part of Iraq. So it's not a foregone conclusion that the Iraqi Shiites would choose loyalty to Iran over their own country.

But let's say that the Iraqi Shiites do come under Iran's dominion, why would Sunni-Shi'a tensions necessarily be increased in the region? Iran's two big enemies at the moment seem to be Israel and America, not the Sunnis. Iran apparently has dominion over Hezbollah and Hezbollah attacked Israel, not a Sunni nation. And if tensions did increase, should Iraq be denied an opportunity at stability because Sunni nations didn't like the idea of an Iraqi Shiastan?

If partition resulted in stability for Iraq and the Iraqi Shiites chose to align with Iran that would probably be bad for America. But Iraq is a sovereign nation and the Iraqi Shiites would be a semi-sovereign region, so they should be free to make their own choices. If America wants the Iraqi Shiites to chose them over Iran, then they would have to try and make themselves more attractive to the Iraqi Shiites. America shouldn't try to win that battle by denying Iraq the opportunity for stability through partition. But I'm getting in way over my head, as I have with other areas. I know next to nothing about Middle East relations other than what I've been reading in the papers for the past few months.

So try all your other ideas first, if none of them work, take another look at partition. Though it apparently failed 60 years ago with India-Pakistan, it had an apparent success with Bosnia more recently. So maybe they know how to do it better now.

And this posting deals with hard partition since that's what Satterfield and Abizaid seemed to be talking about. I also have ideas about soft partition (federalism) and five or six region federalism in my Saudi ambassador posting and about economic federalism in my Federalize Iraq's economy posting, if you feel the need.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Questions General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, and Ambassador David Satterfield, the State Department’s Coordinator for Iraq, at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Current Situation and U.S. Military Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. November 15, 2006. (video clip)

posted: sunday, november 19, 2006, 5:04 AM ET
update: thursday, november 23, 2006, 12:46 PM ET

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