Partition Iraq?

I’m afraid I haven’t been doing a very good job of covering for Murdoc while he is on vacation, but I have enjoyed the discussions on the meagre posts I have managed so far. In this spirit of that, as well as the news of the day, I would like to hear what others are thinking about the plans for partitioning Iraq which have been floating around for a while now, but seem to be reaching critical mass. Please make sure to remember that these are my opinions, although Murdoc may want to chime in later with his own thoughts.

From everything I have read so far, it sounds like partition is going to cause worse problems than it solves (if any). Turkey has gone on record as saying that an independent Kurdistan would make them very unhappy, and they are not alone in that sentiment. While I like the Kurds, especially because of their spirit despite all they have been through, I’m not sure it makes any sense even from their perspective. The worries about the Shia-dominated areas teaming up with Iran need little elaboration. Finally, the Sunnis may just get what they’ve been asking for all along—their own private area of desert with little of value contained within it. Somehow I doubt that’s going to reduce the supply of ‘splodeydopes to the region.

A lot of support for the partioning seems to be coming from mass media/mass hysteria reports about the “growing violence” in Iraq. I suspect it’s more an artefact of US elections than any evidence from Iraq. The Brookings Institute Iraq Index, among other sources of data, does not seem to support such a conclusion very strongly, if at all. But since when have media reports required any kind of evidence? The evidence is somewhat open to interpretation, I would be happy to read comments discussing what the statistics reveal about the situation.

I’d also like to hear what readers think about the wisdom of the partition concept. I can’t pretend I’ve done a very deep analysis. However, in the interests of humanity, I think we should probably stick around for another year or so and give their government a chance at getting the idiots to stop killing each other. It’s also important to finish building the Iraqi armed forces and police numbers, to give them a fighting chance at stability. But ultimately, it will be up to the Iraqis themselves to stabilize their own country. I don’t think the source of the violence is so simple that redrawing the borders will prevent it, nor do I think it will go away if the coalition troops leave. What are your thoughts?

— Posted by Nicholas.

Update: An additional thought. Based upon the writings of some Iraqis, I suspect the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd divide between Iraqis is exaggerated. One reason partition could be a bad idea is that it would be likely to widen the divide due to an “us vs. them” mentality. If it’s the hardliners who are responsible for the sectarian violence, surely the best plan is to find a way for them to form a common bond, rather than exaggerating their differences?


  1. If we tried to partition Iraq – no matter how benign our motives – we would fall into the same problem the colonial powers faced when they started drawing lines. No matter how carefully we draw them, you can’t neatly partition all the Kurds from all the Shia and Sunnis. There will be groups of minorities in each of the three sucessor states, and natural rivalries between the three will lead to, essentially, Yugoslavia. As parts of a whole, we can at least hope that most will feel that they, and their ethnic/religious compatriots have a stake in, and some degree of control over, the fate of the nation, and their place in it. A lot better than having to appeal to your relatives in a different nation for protection from a hostile majority.

  2. I believe Iraq should be broken up into several diffrent COUNTRIES, not a federal system. We can have air bases and military supply dumps in Kurdistan in case any trouble goes down from Iran and let the rest of Iraq descend into anarchy. They are not producing oil as it is, so really there is no loss. I say we should foster a close relashionship and ally with Kurdistan and leave the rest of Iraq to its fate. Divide and conquer. In fact if we could foster revolution IN IRAN from the ethnic Kurds by forming a Kurdistan Nation then the Iranians will be far too busy dealing with that to make trouble else where. I say its win win to divide Iraq.

  3. to comment on the first post. The Iraqis are already moving themselves into homogenious ethnic areas of Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. There currently is NO area of Iraq that is not moving towards that reality, Iraq is becoming divided if we like it or not. We can see where those areas are and draw the maps based on that and help people who want to leave to go to those places. Translation, we help Kurds move to Kurdistan and Sunni’s to their areas before we pull out of Iraq. This will lead to a far more stable enviroment then we see now or was even before. Its naive to believe we can make these people like each other now… especially after all that has happened. Its blood for blood now and we can only seperate them and hope for the best.

  4. Talking about Oil for the Sunni’s why not give them a small area like say 50 square miles of oil rich land connected by a small strip of highway back to their country (say with baghdad at its center) like we had in the cold war with west germany to Berlin… Just an idea so the Sunni’s cannot claim to not have been gyped from oil revenue. A small area like that is more then enough to generate billions for them. The Sunni’s then can defend the highway or pipeline with American Advisors from Haliberton and some American Special Forces to advise or some other private security firm… NOT REGULAR US Forces. We should switch any security that the Iraqi’s still need over to corporate or our special forces efforts, let them pay for it and our Corporations will reap the rewards. I agree with the comment above that we need to move our forces to another friendly country in the area, like a future Kurdistan, we can hold Iran at bay from Afghanistan and Kurdistan from 2 sides.

  5. these comments are all well and good, I think we should just do what the Iraqi’s vote for in a popular vote. But my question is has anyone heard anything about a report that the Iraqi army was buying several hundred thousand M16 Rifles, 9mm Beretta’s and M240s? I do not have the link to the story, but I am just curious if anyone else heard that… In the article they said the Iraqi army wanted to make it easier to train with US Forces and deny insurgents from using government weapons as the insurgents use 7.62 rather then the M16 5.56, this plan if true is dubious at best, what do yall think of this?

  6. cris: Your idea looks really nice in theory, but it would be hard to apply it in practice. Look at Pakistan/India/Bangladesh, and at the Kashmir issue. Please see Cyprus. It will not be so easy to move people from one location to another. Moreover, the Iraqis themselves, they do not want this, except maybe the Kurds. IMHO, they only want to stay where they are, and to fight to grab as much power and influence as they can. It is a tribal culture, and possibly the regular people would cope living mixed, but there is a horde of ‘wise’ leaders that are very much intereseted in keeping the conflict going on. @Kane: They probably want to buy M16 and M1 because they have to spend some money, and the commission should be significant in this deal. I think is pointless to buy these rifles to fit an army in a country were practically you can grab an AK from the street, and where I think almost everybody knows how to shoot an AK, which is not a big deal, BTW.

  7. lets make sure we SELL this stuff to them and not give this away. Look at it this way, even more money for our companies when they need to buy spare parts and replacements if they do invest themselves in these pieces of equipment. Lets make a little bit of money for our home companies from this mess at least! I think the whole moving people should be an optional thing for people, at the end of the day people have to make their decisions, but we give them the opportunity to leave the violence they are facing after that its their problem.

  8. as an adendum to my comment too, yea, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh might be a little messed up, but they are FAR better off the way they are now then if they where still one country. They have problems, but nothing compared to if they had the same country to share. Also to add to my point on having bases in Kurdistan, and fostering revolution in Iran, it makes a great jumping off point for our Green Berets to help Kurdish rebels there and to jump back across the border like the Taliban do in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lets use their tactics against them, I know Green Berets and they would be more then happy to fight fire with fire, what they are good at and train for. Further we would have a secure friendly country giving us oil!

  9. so is Afghanistan… what is your point Bucket? Talk to the Air Mobility Command… I doubt they would not have a problem with keeping our guys supplied

  10. Cris, Turkey will be the first country to be against Kurds’ own country. They have already a strong Kurdish minority in the South East, wich will make them to fight to separe from Turkey and to join the new Kurdistan. As for Iran and the Green Berets, I have to agree it’s an interesting and appealing ideea. LOL As for the CNN, don’t take them too seriously, yet sure there is a sign of displacing people. In my country, which is about the size of Iraq in terms of populations, there are about 2 millions people working abroad, and other hundreds of thowsands that are moving towards the capital. But this is not because of any kind of violence, it’s all natural. Still, it is going to be a huge effort to relocate hundreds of thousands or millions of people. Imagine a Sunni town in a Shia region. What are you doing with them? You take 100,000 people and put them where? In a new built city? In an existing one? In a refugee camp?

  11. true it would be expensive to relocate people to a new place, but hell we have spent so many billions of dollars already building NEW CITIES might just be cheaper then fighting this war! I am just throwing ideas out there, but I think it could be done, for the amount of resources we have spent we could move these people and let them have some peace. Out of curiosity where are you from Delphi? But to sum up, I think that once they where seperated we could really see some stability form in the region. The transportation and building and subsequent aid is far cheaper I think then keeping the bulk of the US military in Iraq instead of having them be prepared to face real threats from Iran and North Korea. I believe the Koreans would have NEVER even thought of testing a Nuke if it had not been for the fact that our ground forces are so used up that they are a joke. We need to get out of Iraq and rebuild our Army’s credibility in the eyes of the world

  12. The Iraqi consitution already allows for the formation of semi-autonomous regions. It also sets up a process for that. Let the Iraqis, who voted for that constitution, work it out as they choose.

  13. Hi Cris, I am from Romania. As a joke, I should say I am from Romania, Europe, as some Romanianjournalist wrote many years ago: ‘when you speak to an American, you should not simply say ‘I am from Romania’ because he will ask ‘Which state?’.’ It happened once to me too with a taxi driver in Chicago. Coming back to the topic, I have been in a trip in Cyprus (the Greek part), and a Greek Cypriot told me: ‘Well, we did not have anything against the Turks. We were neighbours, friends, colleagues, and everything was just fine. The fact we are now separated is not exactely our will.’ In the former Yugoslavia, everything was perfect until this stupid Milosevici started all the mess. Otherwise, I think that your idea is good, at least in theory, I am not sure it can be implemented.

  14. fair enough, it might not be possible, but as thinking citizens I think its our job to throw around ideas. Where do you write for Delphi? I would be interested to know more about your experiences and work. What do you specialize in? I am going to be joining the USMC as an officer when I graduate from college and I like to know everything I can about the world. I had another thought about training the Iraqi Army, has anyone in the military looked at BRINGING Iraqis to the states in large numbers to train them? One problem that I have been reading is violence against recruits and not getting focused training. I think it would be an interesting idea to bring over maybe 5 or 6 battalions of 500 (3000 total) a piece with proven loyal Iraqi’s with NO previous military experience and put them through a rigerous boot camp here in the states to give them really professional military experience and culture. Split them up like 2 to the Marines (1 to san diego, 1 to paris island ect.) and 4 to the Army and just work them through our training apparatus already in place with US instructors that speak Arabic which is vital to the plan to work. Each of these battalions would then be placed in an Iraqi Regiments when they return and their skills would diffuse throughout the organization. It would be an interesting plan to really create a professional DEMOCRATIC military organization with their own traditions based on the US military rather then a weak ghost of Baathist military idealogy that is in the their training now. Further you can pick maybe 50 of the best soldiers from each Battalion from this training and send them to Ranger school, Air Combat Controller school, BUD/s ect. This would help the Iraqis but also help our special warfare students going through these schools so they can learn Iraqi customs first hand and learn the language even more throughly… I read about one Iraqi going to Ranger school and apparently it was a big success. We need to repeat that success on a larger scale. I believe as I have been told by friends who have served in theater that the biggest problem to the new Iraqi army is a lack of professionalism, they have passion and bravery, but they don’t know how to be soldiers, I think a program like this could really help with this fact and as well secure a new core of Iraq’s military to be loyal and sympathetic to the United States.

  15. What Iraq really needs is new leadership that is not afraid of Sadr’s militias (Maliki/Sadr). Partitioning will not work. You couldn’t build a fence high enough to keep them from settling old scores and killing each other. Besides, there is no way to keep the Iranian and Syrian infiltrators out with all the religious trekkers transversing the country at all times of the year. Iraqi’s have a bit of the manyana(sp) attitude. They don’t have the same sense of urgency we do to get things resolved. George’ll figure it out.

  16. ok… Iraq needs new leadership… and where are they going to come from, by magic? Further it is so easy for us sitting here in the states to say ‘they are cowards for not standing up to the militia’s’ when the Iraqi leaders are under constant threat of asassination. If the Militias truly wanted Mr. Miliki gone they would make it happen, so lets not snap judge them till we have walked a mile in their shoes. The end product is that Iraq is a Foreign Policy failure. We have choices that are between bad, worse and total disaster, I would take a bad solution over the other two any day of the week. Mr. Bush figure it out? No offense but name one thing he HAS figured out in his administration besides some nebulous claim about ‘fighting terrorism.’ Do not think for a moment I am a bleeding heart liberal, I am a very angry and very conservative patriot who honestly believes Mr. Bush has betrayed EVERYTHING that the Republican party, Conservative America and our founding fathers believe in. Just because a man gives lip service to being a conservative and about doing ‘all he can’ does not make it so, my definition of failure is when your best just isn’t good enough. I look at the FACTS behiend what he has said and the reality of what he has done and accomplished and the two do not match. Basically it is time for radical creative solutions and for us to get angry about what is happening. I have had Marines I know well loose fingers and die in shittly slums in Iraq and I honestly ask myself For what? How do you define victory? Does anyone honestly believe that Iraq with its culture and history is going to become a mini America in the heart of the middle east? We can try to instill that in their military and hope for the best, but that is a long shot at best I will admit. Not to be ugly towards you Pat even if it sounds that way but its oppinions like yours that have led us down this road by thinking ‘lets all cross our fingers and hope that Mr. Bush knows what he is doing’ when the sad fact is that he does not and instead of hoping for the best we need to start making things happen and coming up with creative solutions that no one has thought of before. This is the same song and dance in Vietnam under Vietnimazation and that was a total failure as we saw when Saigon fell. It kills me to say this but in two weeks I hope the Democrats take the house because I know they for diffrent reasons then I will cut the purse strings to this war and force the administration to think outside the box. I kinda feel like I am the only one here presenting concrete solutions to these problems, even if they are long shots at best. Hell even if it is crazy I would LOVE to see yall crazy guys throw around stuff about how we can SOLVE Iraq.

  17. Cris, Thank you for your interest. In short, I am working as IT Consultant (unfortunatelly in Romania), and I have discovered Murdoc some time ago as covering about the same kind of topics I’m interested in. Surprisingly, or maybe not, Romania is a very pro-American country. Anyhow, to avoid being off-topic, you can kindly ask Murdoc to provide you my email address for further info. I agree with you that Irak has been a foreign policy failure, as well as many others. It is amazing how many times the US repeated the same kind of mistakes. IMO, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to make Iraq or Afghanistan, or any other ME contry to adopt the American way of life. Still, the more important would be to avoid the Vietnamese experience to happens. I mean, to avoid the war to perpetuate for several years, and afterwards to leave Iraq without solving anything. In other terms, to avoid ‘to win all the battles, but to loose the war’

  18. Can anyone who thinks Iraq is a ‘foreign policy disaster’ please tell me (approximately) the average time it takes to win a counter-insurgency war? If you do not know you can look it up, perhaps try the US Marine Corps Small Wars Manual. Once you know that, perhaps you should reflect upon just how accurately you are in a position to judge whether or not it has been a failure so far.

  19. Nicholas, None of us is exactely in the position to make an accurate judgement. I would say, nobody is in this position, but we can have an opinion. This opinion is based on the information that we can get sitting on our desks, in front of our computers. Still, I believe that it was a policy failure, because the policy interfered with the military decision (as it interfered in Vietnam thirty five years ago, and in Somalia more recently). IMO, if it is a war, let the military take the decisions, not the politicians. Moreover, US went to Iraq without ANY plan whatsoever for the after-war period. You can have the best grunts, guns, choppers, tanks, but if you do not have a clear strategy, all the others are worthless. Can you define the strategy in Iraq right now? Another reason for saying ‘it was a foreign policy failure’ is that the other option would be to say it was a military failure, which is obviously not the case. If US will withdraw from Iraq and the civil war will ravage the country, than it will be a military failure, produced by a political failure. Cris, I think that your idea to send Iraqi troops in US for training could prove very effective.

  20. A CLASSICAL insurgency could take up too 10-12 years to defeat as memory serves. First of all the Small Wars Manual is a great book, its sitting on my book shelf in fact next to On War, and Sun Tzu. It was however published in 1940 by the Marine Corps press. The historical context of its writing was related to the Bannana Wars that my great uncle fought in and won a bronze star as it is apart of my family lore. The small wars manual is a good read but one should also note that Iraq is by far NOT a classical insurgency. A classical insurgency is a political dispute with rational players. The IRA, FARC, Viet Cong, or Basque seperatists are excellent examples of this, the SWM deals with insurgency under that assumption. First the Iraqi insurgency is not rational, no amount of hearts and minds winning will EVER stop the violence. How can you negotiate or bring someone to the table who has been told by GOD that he must kill you? Second the insurgency has an almost unlimited supply of fresh recruits coming in from all over the islamic world, no matter what we do they will continue to come with full backing of professional training, weapons and arms from Iran and Syria. The SWM assumes also that once you win over the hearts and minds of the population you can eventually bleed off the manpower of an insurgent force, this same thought process was General Westmorland’s thesis based on many of the MARINE Advisors in Vietnam who had read the SWM. Anyone remember the ‘cross over point’ that Robert Macnamara had talked about when we would be killing more men then the enemy could replace? Well we are thinking the same way in Iraq and like in Vietnam its foolish and outright wrong. Nicholas if you can find me ONE instance in modern history where an idealogical basedinsurgency has been defeated militarily without killing EVERYONE in that group, I would gladly shutup. The truth is that the only way to defeat this insurgency is to either kill them all, which is impossible or terrorize them back more then they are capable of which is what Saddam did. We do not have the Brutality in our hearts or stomach for either one, there can be no negotiation with fanatics, only dividing the country in such a way that maybe they actually WILL fight each other in a bloody war. We did not have alot of trouble from Iran when they where in a fight to the death with Iraq. If we have several small countries that all hate each other that was once Iraq maybe they will battle and keep blowing themselves up in Baghdad rather then Kansas City. The fact is that there are signifigant and real complaints that the insurgents are making that the Coalition nor the Iraqi Government has addressed. The first and most important being a guarentee for the Sunni minority to economic and physical security! An insurgency will almost certainly arise if an ethnic group many of which where former Army members believe the government is out to get them and killing them with death squads! I know as a fact if somehow Texans (just an example everyone) supported by Iraqis had taken over a large chunk of our government and were leading death squads around killing Californians like me I would take up arms to defeat that threat and any foreigners that supported them. To defeat an insurgency the bottom line is that you have to have faith in your government and the Sunni’s have no reason to have any and the Shiites believe that its payback for years of oppression from Saddam and the Iraqi government is complacent in that. The SWM should NOT be considered in this situation for the above reasons. At the end of the day I would agree with Delphi, this has been a military success, we have defeated the insurgents in every engagement beyond one sidedly with kill rates of 30 to 1. Our troops are masters of the battlefield. However as Sun Tzu said you can win every battle but lose the war. Clauswitz as well talked about the enemies ‘center of gravity’ the US COG is our troops lives the Iraqi insurgencies is God, tell me how we can defeat that? They can strike at our COG but we cannot strike theirs. This HAS been a foreign policy disaster. Look at it from a Cost benifit analysis, what have we really gained by over throwing Saddam? He might have been a bad man but now that we know there where never any WMD’s what have we gained? Nothing, I hope we win Iraq I honestly in my heart do hope beyond hope, but as an educated person I have to realistic about our chances. The road to hell is truly paved with good intentions, we had the best of those but now we must be realize the situation we are in and put our pride aside.

  21. …we have defeated the insurgents in every engagement beyond one sidedly with kill rates of 30 to 1′. Sure, this is absolutely true, but unfortunatelly it will not make US win the war. As a matter of fact, in Vietnam US did not loose any single battle, US had about 55,000 casualties, the North Vietnam about 1 million. But, the least I can say is US did not win. ‘The truth is that the only way to defeat this insurgency is to either kill them all, which is impossible or terrorize them back more then they are capable of which is what Saddam did.’ I believe it was discussed already, but still I do not understand why after US occupied Iraq some severe rules have not been imposed: – Arms controll: anybody caught with a gun should have been put in prison, or shot. I am amazed when I see on TV scenes of ‘insurgents’ carring AK47 and RPG launchers, driving in a truck and chaunting on the streets. – Identity control: every Iraqi should have been registered, having an ID with his own data. If caught without, throw him to jail. Give them limited freedom to move. – Border control: close the borders, and do not allow anyone for two years to enter the country. – Crash every militia group immediately. And more than everything, stop wondering if they like this or not. They have to accept. Now, I consider it is a little bit too late, and I do not see any reallistic way to win this war. After reconsidering all the facts, I would merely agree with Cris: let’s split Iraq and leave them fight, if that is what they want.