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Partitioning Iraq Softly

Regional boundaries would have to be drawn, with outside help, to mediate any arguments over territory.
by Leander Schaerlaeckens
UPI Correspondent
Washington (UPI) July 09, 2007
If the U.S. troop surge in Iraq fails to pay dividends, the only thing left to do is to break the country up into three autonomous regions, some experts now say. The only way out of what is considered to be a full-fledged civil war is a "soft partition" that would split Iraq up into Kurdistan, "Shi'astan" and "Sunnistan" and to share oil-revenues, Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Edward Joseph, an Iraq veteran and scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies, said during a panel discussion in Washington Thursday.

O'Hanlon and Joseph said partition should only be considered as a final option if the surge doesn't work.

Although senior Iraqi officials have strongly opposed a partition and the Bush administration has no interest in it, O'Hanlon claims that it's already occurring.

"It is what's happening on the ground. Iraq is being torn apart; Iraq is being divided along sectarian lines whether most Iraqis want it or not. Al-Qaida strategy in that regard has been working," he said. "Iraq is being ethnically segregated. Ethnic cleansing is on its way, it's happening, and at least a couple million people have been displaced. It's becoming Bosnia in some ways.

"We would rather manage the process than have the death squads and the militias do the separation for us," O'Hanlon said.

"The United States cannot impose partition for Iraq. Only Iraqis can decide this," Joseph said. "Iraqis have already agreed to an extent. The constitution already contains the fundamental vision for a soft partition."

The plan would call for American troops to stay in Iraq for 12 to 18 months in order to help protect Iraqis relocating to their own sect's region. Although such a move would be voluntary, Joseph said the pressure of being a minority in a hostile neighborhood would eventually sway those who decide not to move.

Regional boundaries would have to be drawn, with outside help, to mediate any arguments over territory. Those who would have to be uprooted, estimated at 5 million by O'Hanlon and Joseph, would then have to be given assistance in building a new life. That would be done through a house-swapping scheme and a job-creation program, which should create 3 million jobs paying roughly $1,000 a year.

Oil would have to be divided between the three regions on a per capita basis, but this could cause some aggravation among Sunnis who believe that they make up about half of the country's population. The real number is closer to one-fifth, according to O'Hanlon. "Unless the Sunni Arabs feel that they are receiving a share of the oil that they think is fair, they will fight," he said.

Once the partition would be complete, mandatory ID cards would have to be implemented in order to lower terrorism by restricting access between regions. Subsequently, new institutions would have to be built in order to make each region completely autonomous, although, according to Joseph, "the partition will maintain the unity of the Iraqi state."

In order to do this, the Iraqi security forces, which the coalition has gone to great pains to create, would have to be dismantled. O'Hanlon envisions redistributing the forces among the regions by sect to give each its own security system, although he was not convinced it would work. "We're going to take our chances that Shiite police will do a passable job guarding Shiite neighborhoods. It's not going to be pretty," he said.

"I would prefer that the current inter-ethnic mode (of security forces) succeed, but it hasn't been working very well," he said.

O'Hanlon admitted that the chief beneficiary of this scheme would be the United States. "Without this kind of a soft partition concept we have very little hope of extricating our forces or any kind of regional stability to protect our interests," he said.

Source: United Press International

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Lynch's Case For The Iraq Surge
Washington (UPI) July 09, 2007
A top U.S. general in Iraq predicted disaster Friday if surge forces are brought home too quickly. "It would be a mess," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is conducting operations just south of Baghdad in known insurgent sanctuaries.

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